Ready for the grind

This is a 2020 photo of Jack Mayfield of the Houston Astros baseball team. This image reflects the Astros active roster as of Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, when this image was taken. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

For Jack Mayfield, making it to the major leagues was the culmination of a journey that began on the baseball fields of Del Rio.

Now, he says, the harder part is staying in the major leagues.

Mayfield, 29, had 64 at-bats with the Houston Astros in 2019, finishing his stretch with 10 hits, five RBIs, two home runs and a .156 batting average in 26 games. He also got to be a part of the team’s run to the World Series though he did not play in the postseason.

An infielder, Mayfield has played second base, shortstop and third base throughout his minor and major league career. Cracking the Astros’ starting lineup may prove difficult, with former MVP Jose Altuve manning second base, former American League Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa at shortstop and two-time All-Star and 2019 Silver Slugger award winner Alex Bregman at third base, but Mayfield said he’s not afraid of any challenge set before him.

“I’ve had seven stops along my career to the majors. It took me seven years and over 600 games to finally play in a major league game. There were no shortcuts to success for me. I knew I had the passion and that drive inside of me to keep playing, to keep grinding. I signed to play professional baseball as a free agent, so nothing has ever been handed to me,” Mayfield said.

After a stellar career with the Del Rio Rams, Mayfield signed to play for the University of Oklahoma. For four years, Mayfield was a constant for the Sooners, first as a pitcher and then as an infielder. He was named a captain as a senior and led the Sooners to the regional tournament and was an All-Big 12 honorable mention.

He signed a free agent contract with the Astros on June 17, 2013 and was sent to the Greenville Astros. From there, the climb up the ladder to the big leagues began. Each year Mayfield would find himself in a new home. From Greenville he was assigned to the Tri-City ValleyCats. The next year, Mayfield was assigned to the Quad Cities River Bandits and then later the Lancaster JetHawks.

In 2015 Mayfield returned to Texas as he was assigned to the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks. He bounced back-and-forth between the Hooks and Triple-A Fresno Grizzlies until last season when the Round Rock Express was named an affiliate of the Astros. Mayfield spent last season with both the Express and the Astros, but he had his best season as a pro in 2019.

He finished his first full season at Round Rock with a career high in runs (78), home runs (26), RBIs (79), batting average (.287) and OPS (.916).

“I finally had a healthy season. Last season was the first year I made it through without an injury. It’s tough to get called up when you’re hurt,” Mayfield said.

Mayfield’s major league debut finally came on May 27, 2019. He received the call that morning and flew from Del Rio to Houston for a home series against the Chicago Cubs. In his first at-bat, he rang a double off the left field wall, just missing a home run by a few feet.

“It felt like I blacked out. I kept chugging and got to second base and looked around to make sure it really happened,” Mayfield said. “All those years, all those games, all that work, it all came together in that split second. I just stood there and felt like ‘Wow, I made it.’ It was better than the first home run I hit.”

“Getting to the big leagues meant all that hard work, all that work I put in behind the scenes finally came to light. It was a special moment for me, for my family, for all my supporters. It showed that the story had a happy ending. The best part was having my wife and son and my family on a major league field, getting to take pics after the game.”

Making the moment even more special for Mayfield was he was able to get his first major league hit in front of his friends and his family including wife Jackie.

“It’s been a grind for her, too,” Mayfield said. “I saw a video of her responding to my first hit and seeing her enjoy the moment with me was something I’ll never forget.”

TUESDAY: Mayfield talks about the new season including dealing with the Astros’ cheating scandal.

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