* Roemon Fields was working at the post office in Seattle when he was signed by the Blue Jays, spending the summer of 1994 at class-A Vancouver, where he hit .269 with 13 doubles, four triples a homer and 26 RBIs. He was 48-for-57 stealing bases.
By Alexis Brudnicki
VANCOUVER, BC – Roemon Fields was a mail-order outfielder.
At least that’s what Tim Raines, the Toronto Blue Jays baserunning and outfielding coordinator will answer when asked about the 23-year-old and where he came from. And as interesting as it sounds, it is almost completely true.
Fields finished his post-secondary education at Bethany College and graduated with a degree in health and wellness before taking a 9-to-5 job at the post office at home in Seattle. He had given up on his major league dreams before playing in one tournament north of the border for a week, picking up his glove for the first time in several months to get on the field.
“I gave baseball up,” he said. “I just didn’t think about it and put it at the bottom of my mind.”
But for one week Fields went back to the sport he loves, and it changed everything.
“I didn’t practice at all, or hit a baseball or anything for probably four or five months,” Fields said. “I did well [at the tournament]; I hit a home run. I don’t know how I hit it. It was like somebody else was doing it for me. Then [Blue Jays scout Matt Bishoff] said, ‘I think you’re good enough to play,’ because I was making good catches. I had just found my glove the day before I left and thought I would give it a try.”
When the Blue Jays offered Fields a job, he thought it might be too good to be true. He was skeptical after experiencing some letdown throughout the selection process just months before.
“I talked to Matt Bishoff, who works for the Blue Jays as a scout now,” Fields said. “He was the old video guy, and I was the first guy he signed. I was at the tournament in Canada for five days and he asked me on the last day if I wanted to play and I said, ‘Sure.’ I didn’t get too excited because I didn’t get a chance in college. I was told [teams] were going to draft me and they never did.”
Even during the time that Fields was still living out the idea of someday becoming a professional baseball player in his head, Toronto was never an organization that he considered to be an option.
“I really thought Kansas City was going to pick me in the draft,” Fields said. “I went through a pre-draft workout and everything, so I thought it was going to be them for sure. There were only a couple teams, them and the A’s, but never Toronto.”
Bishoff made Fields his first-ever sign as a new scout with the Canadian franchise, and the speedy outfielder from Washington landed close to home and just across the border in Vancouver for the Northwest League season with the Canadians.
After quitting his job at the post office, of course.
“I told them what I was going to do,” Fields said. “They said, ‘Yeah we would do the same thing.’ I was the youngest guy working at the post office…and I was actually the slowest because I didn’t know where to drive or anything.”
In Vancouver, Fields knew exactly where he was going, and he was often the fastest guy on the diamond. He set a new stolen base record for the team with 48 – caught nine times – over just 72 games, shattering the previous record of 25. He also posted a .269/.338/.350 slash line with one home run, 13 doubles, four triples and 26 RBI.
“My legs and my speed are my best asset,” he said. “I feel like that’s what’s going to get me up. I mean, I’m not a big guy, I’m not a power guy, so I just have to use my speed. And my defence is pretty good also…I did track in college but other than that it was just around the neighbourhood, running with the other kids when I was younger.”
Fields impressed with his instincts and his abilities on the basepaths for the Canadians, but he didn’t take all of the credit for the numbers he posted throughout the Northwest League season.
“I feel like it’s easy because the pitchers – I’m sorry to say it but they’re not all athletic and some are a little slow,” Fields said of swiping bags. “They do a lot of things that make it easy and [after they throw] they think, ‘I’m done now.’ I feel like my running [instincts] are natural though.”
His approach at the plate is simple.
“Hit it on the ground or a line drive, put my head down, and run,” Fields said. “In the air, they’re going to get me out most of the time if I hit it there.”
Under the advisement of the organization, Fields spent plenty of time in the batting cages this season to hone his bunting skills in the hopes that it will help him in the future and give him a chance to better utilize his greatest tool.
“I’m still working on that,” Fields said. “Bunting is something I really need to work at. They said if I get that, I’ll get a few more hits. I’ve never really bunted before so they’re teaching me that. I worked on that with Tim Raines and I’ve learned a lot.”
While he enjoys his time running around the bases, Fields had the most fun this year in Vancouver in the outfield, making regular highlight-reel catches and impressing the home crowd with several spectacular plays.
“I’ve made some crazy catches,” Fields said. “They always say, ‘Did you really catch that?’ and I’m just like, ‘Yeah I caught it.’ I would replay it if I could… I feel like a diving catch is the best [part of the game]. The fans go crazy. And then if there are three outs I can throw it to some girl or something.”
The crowd in Vancouver helped to make the games exciting for the young player, a welcome adjustment during the grind of minor league baseball and after playing in front of a sparse group of players’ family and close friends throughout his college years.
“This is difficult,” Fields said. “When you get off the bus and have to play right away, and the bus rides are hard, but other than that it’s fun playing in front of people. I had never played in front of people before. Even at college, I went to a small Christian school where there were fifty people max, and I’m coming into thousands here…
“This is fun. I’m always looking around and even when I run back in I’m always looking around at the people.”
– Follow Alexis Brudnicki on Twitter @baseballexis