This past Saturday current Los Angeles Dodger utility player Kyle Farmer came to Bay St. Louis to join his Gex family for a reunion prior to Christmas.
The newlywed and his wife, Courtney, were thrilled to be in town to catch up with relatives he had not seen in quite some time and to get introduced to some he had never met. However, he also made time to talk about his passion and love, second to Courtney, and that is - baseball!
Farmer made a surprise stop to speak to the 2019 St. Stanislaus Rock-a-chaw baseball team.
Farmer grew up in Atlanta, the son of Rachel and Bryan Farmer. Rachel Gex Farmer grew up in Bay St. Louis before marrying Bryan Farmer whom she met while attending Ole Miss.
The couple moved to Atlanta as Bryan was pitching for the Atlanta Braves organization after being an All-SEC hurler for the Rebels. The couple put down roots in the Southern metropolis and have never left.
Kyle graduated from Marist School, a catholic school, in Atlanta, as a standout football and baseball player, and has a younger sister, Nicole.
Following Marist, Kyle signed with Georgia where he was an All-American shortstop who was drafted by the Dodgers in the eighth round as a catcher.
He has made the stop at each level of the minor leagues and broke through to the major leagues on July 28, 2017. Two days later, he hit a two-run double off Albert Suarez in the bottom of the 11th frame to give the Dodgers a 3-2 win over the San Francisco Giants. It was also the first time in Dodger history that a rookie's first major league at-bat result in a walk off game-winning hit. He played in 20 games in 2017 for the Dodgers and made the roster for the World Series that year. He made the opening day roster in 2018 for the Dodgers and has been bouncing back and forth between Los Angeles and the Triple-A Oklahoma City affiliate.
Farmer, his father Bryan, and his uncle Joe Gex, a 1982 SSC alum and All-State catcher for SSC joined the Rocks at the field after a session of cutting grass, weedeating base paths and turning dirt to get the field ready for play this spring. Gex was also an All-American catcher for Ole Miss.
Gex and Farmer gathered to speak to the Rocks about work ethic, dedication and what it takes to get to the top.
Gex opened the talk by describing how different the field looks since he last played there. He rem in need SSC head coach Mark Logan and his staff that there was not an outfield.fence at SSC until.his senior year and no lights for night games. Gex stated, "The field was a lot different when I played but the approach to this game never changes. How much work do really want to put in? How much work are you willing to put in when nobody is looking? Even when you are warming a pitcher up in between innings and a pitch goes low or to the side, block it. Yes, it may look stupid to the other team or people sitting in the stands, but to that scout that you have no idea is there, that simple move could be the difference in what direction your life takes."
Gex continued to give instances of what many perceive to be inconsequential but can change the course of a life.
Gex added, "When I was a rising junior, Coach (Jake) Gibbs signed a JUCO All-American catcher that looked the whole package. I could have packed it in but I chose to compete and do even more of the little things - extra reps behind the plate, extra wind sprints, extra time in the weight room. Eventually, it paid off and I was the starter my final two seasons and was drafted by the Kansas City Royals. Those lessons I learned behind the plate about doing more when nobody was looking carried over into my personal life and career and it has paid for itself exponentially. So, the question remains 'What are you willing to do?'"
Farmer followed his uncle speaking to the Rocks who were motionless and turned in while the World Series participant spoke.
Farmer commented, "I do not want to sit up here and tell you that I concentrated on just baseball to get to this level. I played multiple sports when I was younger and I would encourage you to do the same. It makes you a better and more refined competitor. There is adversity switching from season to season but it helps you work through and manage that adversity."
Farmer talked about his climb through the minor leagues, "When I was drafted, it seemed like every team wanted me as a catcher despite me not ever spending a pitch behind the plate. I called Uncle Joe when I was drafted to get some pointers and a crash course and then I began my professional career. The day after my first game behind the plate, my legs ached so bad but I continued to work harder despite the failures and there will be failure. This is the hardest sport in all of sports at this level. You have to accept failure if you are to learn from it."
Farmer continued to talk about his climb and pointed out especially when he got invited to the big league spring camp. He went through camp not getting much time behind the plate or in the box. He was informed they were sending him back to Double-A. Farmer was devastated and in a bad place. He found a book titled "The Law of Attraction". Farmer acknowledged that the book and its content changed his life and his approach.
Farmer continued, "After I read the book, I convinced myself to believe in what I had. I had a tremendous game following the book. And, it continued. When I got the call to the big leagues, I cried after pulling the car over. I called my dad and he cried with me because we knew how much had gone into this. Then, I had a surreal first at-bat in the majors that changed my life. I went from having a few hundred Twitter followers to over 40,000 after that hit. Things happen because of the approach and belief you have, good or bad."
Farmer added perhaps the best piece of advice for any person at the end, "Make sure you have a routine. Your body gets in a rhythm and it can feed off of it. But, most of all, be fun to watch. Cal Ripken used to play with the mindset that he would impress one fan in the stands every time he took the field. Just be fun to watch because you never know who is watching you from the stands."
After speaking one on one with some of the players and coaches, Farmer stated, "I just wanted to impart to these young players today to work hard each day because it does pay off. Go out with a great mindset each time because it only takes one time to change a life. I enjoy getting in front of young people and give them something that will help them build their future. Anytime I get a chance to hear someone speak from experience, I pay attention just a little more. More people should do it."
After Farmer had departed, Logan stated, "As their coaches each day, we speak to them every day about these lessons. But, when they hear it from someone else who has made the journey, it sinks in a little more. You could tell by their reaction this hit home."
As players began to depart from the field following the special event, one could see a difference in each one. Despite the cold grey clouds that held overhead, the day was brighter and warmer because of a Farmer who helped sow seeds of his own experience in younger players. See you at the game!