As previously reported, former Carbon Dino and USUE Eagle Jarod Lessar has signed a seven-year contract to pitch for the New York Yankees. Lessar received a call early in the morning on the first day of free agency with the exciting news.
“I didn’t think it would be that early and I didn’t think it would be the Yankees,” Lessar said. “I saw the scout’s number and thought, ‘Wow, this is happening!'” Due to COVID-19, the Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft was shortened from 20 rounds to five. The Yankees only had three picks in this year’s draft, so it is highly likely that Lessar would have been drafted under normal conditions.
Lessar’s athletic journey after high school started at Southern Utah University (SUU) playing football. Coaching and position changes cut his time at short at SUU, plus Lessar missed playing baseball. His desire to return to baseball prompted him to play for Utah State University Eastern (USUE), where he excelled as a pitcher. Lessar’s success on the diamond led to an offer from Brigham Young University (BYU) before signing with the Yankees.
When Lessar returned home to join USUE and revitalize his baseball career, he was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which abruptly ended his first season. “I don’t even know how to explain it, it’s been crazy,” Lessar commented looking back on the past several years. “Especially with me having my auto immune disease.”
“My overall view is don’t get discouraged,” he said. “Some things obviously didn’t work out for me as far as getting sick, transferring schools, going to a small school.” But countless hours of hard work and dedication allowed him to capitalize on the opportunity at USUE and led to his recruitment to BYU. “I was really lucky that BYU saw me. I’ve been blessed and lucky at times.”
The worldwide pandemic added yet another wrinkle to his story. “It’s been crazy. I went from thinking, ‘I will never play baseball again’ to ‘Okay, now I’m playing pro ball,'” reflected Lessar. The uncertainty of his baseball career came at a time before the NCAA granted eligibility extensions to spring sport athletes. Another potential hurdle was whether or not BYU would hold his roster spot.
In the end, neither was a factor after signing with New York. Lessar continued, “It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions. In the span of 2-3 months, I went from all-time highs to all-time, well you know.”
Although COVID-19 has affected Lessar’s baseball career in a number of ways, it has actually increased its longevity. “As far as the signing bonus and the contract that I got, it was actually more than I would have gotten if there was no coronavirus and I had just had a good season. I really wouldn’t have signed for more than I got and I could have signed for less and for less years. In weird way, it worked to my advantage.”
There is still uncertainty ahead of Lessar as COVID-19 continues to affect not only MLB, but the nation as a whole. On Tuesday, June 30, Pat O’Conner, Minor League Baseball president, announced that the minor league season would be cancelled this year. What does this mean for Lessar and his fellow draft and signees? “It changes on a day-to-day basis,” said Lessar.
There is no doubt the the same dedication, hard work and resilience that brought Lessar to this point in his career will be essential to help him persevere. “It doesn’t matter what type of situation you are in. If you put your head down and you grind and do what you are supposed to do and do what you are told, good things happen.” He then used a baseball analogy, “Life throws you curveballs and you got to just take them for what they are and work through them and just stay positive and find the positives in everything. And then just be determined.”
“My biggest thing is ‘I got to do this, I’ve got to get better.’ I never thought that I was good enough. Even when I had a good outing, I would sit down and say, ‘this is what I did wrong, if I would have done this, this would have been better’ and that has been my mentality, really my whole life. I never really feel like I’ve been satisfied. I try to always stay hungry. And no matter what gets in the way, find a way to get around it, through it,” described Lessar.
Traditionally, MLB teams consist of 40-man rosters. That number has been increased to 60 this year in an effort to avoid and combat potential injuries. It will also help alleviate the loss of the minor league rosters. It is common for a number of players to float between the majors and the team’s Triple-A affiliate for a variety of reasons.
Lessar has stayed busy, even after the spring season was cancelled. He was been throwing twice a week and working out to stay ready. The last he heard, he will report to Tampa, Florida to join the Yankees’ organization in six weeks.
“I want to represent myself, my family and where I am from the best way possible.” Lessar concluded with a message for others looking to reach their goals. “You just have to stay focused, stay determined and go for it.”