Jon Kemmer’s MiLB Journey Through The Eyes of His Fiance
Many people know the journey to the MLB is a long one for most. Very rarely does a player get drafted and make the majors within a year. Many players go through a grind that takes many years to accomplish. Along side these players are their spouses and their families, enduring this grind with him. Here is the story of Jon Kemmer‘s journey through the eyes of his fiance.
Story from Lauren Magalski
The day Jon got drafted was like any other day. We woke up and played with his dog, went four wheeling, and later that day, ended up watching some Clarion Little League while doing batting practice at the outdoor cages. I heard Jon’s phone ring and that was when he got “the call.” They announced it over the speaker system and along came, what seemed like a hundred little ball players, wanting to get his autograph. All I could do was sit there and think, “What the heck are we getting into!” Later that week his mom, Jackie, and I were trying to plan a party for Jon before he was going to leave. Little did I know that while I was at work (4 hours away), he was going to call me to tell me that he was leaving the next day, and that I wouldn’t be seeing him for a while. This is when he started his first short season in Tri-City.
From where I lived to Tri-City in Troy, New York it was only a short 3 hour drive. Considering I drove 4 hours away to college, it was a piece of cake for us. With this being a new situation for us, we weren’t sure what to expect. I went to visit Jon almost every weekend that I could. I was a counselor at a children’s summer camp which usually took up most of my week days. The best day for me in Tri-City was Jon’s first game. I remember listening to it on my car ride home from work. His first at bat of his professional career he hit a homerun and I ran into my house screaming and celebrating, only to realize I was the only one home. Little did I know we would still be at it 5 baseball seasons later!
Being in New York was very fortunate for us as he played very close to my hometown of Spring Grove, PA. He was in State College, Aberdeen, and other places within 30 minutes to two hours of my home. One away series in State College I remember waking up at 8 am to go to work, getting off at 4 pm, driving two hours to state college for a baseball game that started at 6:30, watching the game until about 9:30, and then driving two hours to get home around 11:30 pm. I did that for four nights straight and realized if I want to see him, I have to do it! Although it was great, not everything was glitz and glam. There was a night that Jon, his roommate James Ramsay, and I were in their apartment. The A/C decided to kick off and no one could fix it until the next day. Needless to say, I had never seen so much complaining and sweat from two boys!
In his first pro-season, they made it to the NYPL championship series which also happened to be in State College. At the time I was in college and playing volleyball. Jon said I did not have to come, but getting a chance to win a championship, there was no way I was going to miss that! I would get out of practice around 7:00 and then drive about two hours to state college to get to the game around the 6th or 7th inning, but lucky enough they made it worth it by winning the Championship!! Jon was able to come home two days later, and we couldn’t have asked for a better first baseball season with the Astros. After hitting .221 on the season, we weren’t sure what was going to happen next season! He ended up going down to Florida to work at the instructional league, which was only about a month of our “off-season.” We then had another off-season of workouts, batting, working on my college classes, and trying to take everything in.
Jon’s second season he started out in Spring Training and was fortunate enough to get moved up to Low-A with the Quad Cities River Bandits. To get to Quad Cities was the tough part. Trying to find cheap flights, along with a rental car, just started adding up the money. I made the decision that I was just going to drive. It was a LONG 13 HOURS. I was fortunate to be able to stop halfway and stay at my college roommate’s house in Michigan, but I made that 13 hour trip out to see him for two different weeks. Jon had liked Quad Cities but he never told me how pretty the field and surrounding area was. The River Bandits stadium was amazing. I remember riding the Ferris wheel, as well as walking over the bridge to the stadium when downtown Davenport was flooded.
We sure made the most of it though, as 6 or 7 of us girls had decided to tailgate before one of their home games. The experience of getting to meet all of the different girls has definitely been the best part. Whether we are still all on the same team, got traded or maybe not even playing anymore, most of us still try to keep in contact in some way. Quad Cities introduced us to Noodles and Company. Living on a minor league salary, Jon and I became quite accustomed to that place as well as the ice cream and milkshakes from Whitey’s. Dealing with a one hour time difference was new for us, but we were still able to watch his games on the computer when they were playing.
Jon played well and was able to earn himself a promotion to High-A with the Lancaster Jethawks. My parents and I were able to find the time to fly out to California to visit this stadium. Lancaster California is HOT! We traveled to Bakersfield for an away series but, unfortunately, Jon had gotten hurt and was not playing for two or three days. So for those two or three days, we were lucky enough to sit in 105 degree weather while Jon sat on the bench. Toward the end of the season we hit a bump in the road. I get a call from someone asking if I had seen what happened to Jon. So naturally I freak out. I get a text from Jon maybe two minutes later saying, “I’m pretty sure I broke my leg.” At first I said “haha” thinking it was a joke until I got a picture of it. Of course he was depressed as he was finishing the season on a very high note (.294 BA with Lancaster). Me, being on the other side of the country, I didn’t know what I was going to do to help!
Jon has the best sponsors, Jordan and Dennis, who were amazing and helped Jon out in any way that they can. About two weeks after he broke his leg, he finally got flown to Houston to have surgery on it. Knowing that I couldn’t be there for the surgery and that he was alone really had me down for a couple of days. We were able to Skype while he was in the hospital so we could give each other pep talks to get through it. Once the surgery was over, he was flown down to Florida to begin his rehab where he roomed with Carlos Correa since the same thing had happened to him. Rehab started in the beginning of August and we knew it would be a long process, but the worst part was not knowing when he was actually going to be able to come home.
While Jon was in Florida, the Jethawks ended on a hot streak and made it all the way through playoffs. They won another championship! Although Jon was upset he wasn’t there to contribute, we were pretty proud that he was able to say he now had two minor league championship rings. About two months after he started his rehab and he was able to finally come home. With his injury and still getting back into things, we weren’t sure where this next season had left us for going into his next one in the spring. That off-season was just rehabilitation and working out to get his strength back up. I was still working on getting my master’s degree so it all kept us busy.
Heading into his spring training we weren’t sure what to expect with what happened to his leg. Jon had come in prepared and had a good enough showing to earn himself another promotion to AA Corpus Christi Hooks. Wow, we were lucky that he ended up there! Jon had the most amazing host family (Bryan, Lacey, and Connor). I was at my busiest of times with schooling and had summer classes. This made our goal of at least seeing each other once a month or every month and a half, nearly impossible. Fortunately, Lacey and Bryan made it easy on us by letting me stay at their house when I came to visit. They had dinner every night for us after the game. They even took us on a wonderful beach trip the morning before some games. We couldn’t have asked for anything more from them, other than we wish we could stay there again!
Jon had a rough beginning to his season so I wanted to go down to clear both of our minds. We had a good weekend trip, and it was like he was a whole new person. Jon was able to come back strong enough that he got Player of the Year, and was second in the league batting title (.327 BA, 18 HR, 65 RBI). I couldn’t have been more proud, and all of his hard work the past off-season had finally paid off. Jon and I were actually talking last week and we both agreed that we could see ourselves living in Corpus Christi at some point in our lives. The weather was nice, it was beautiful, lots to do, and there were both beaches and woods to make him happy. Unfortunately they ended up leaving the playoffs early, but that only meant he got to come home sooner. Little did I know this would be our most eventful off-season.
It started off with the usual classes, working out, and batting up until December. In the beginning of December I was able to graduate with my master’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology. Jon was hoping to hear if he earned an invite to Major League Camp. We were at dinner and he got a phone call but would not answer it until we left. So on New Year’s Eve, he finally got the news of his first invite to big league camp! At this time, we decided we wanted to take a celebratory trip just the two of us. I always wanted to go back up to Niagra Falls which Jon had never been to. So we packed and away we went. We drove up to Niagra from his hometown which took about 3 hours. We spent a really good 3 days there and little did I know, we would get engaged and that I would be coming home with a fiancé!
We were able to drive back to his hometown for a short celebration before we were off again and flying to Corpus Christi for their awards banquet. They were so great and allowed me to come down with Jon as he accepted his player of the year award. After some wedding decisions, venue searching, and invite list choices, it was off for another Spring Training. I am thankful that I was able to spend a week watching him with the Big League camp before I was starting my new job the following week. At the ending of camp, he was once again promoted to AAA with the Fresno Grizzlies.
With a three hour time difference and me starting a new job the following week, we thought it was going to be a hectic season. It seemed like the timing aligned perfectly, but I was able to surprise Jon out in Vegas for their opening series. I worked until noon, drove to the airport, flew to Vegas, rented a car, and somehow made it with three innings to go in the game. I wanted to get his attention so I ran to the stands by right field and had the help of some guys to call out his name. Unfortunately, he said he heard them but thought they were heckling him and he ignored them. He finally got to his phone and saw a picture of me at the field and had no idea I was coming. It was a success! I would watch his other games online. With California being so far away, I would often fall asleep in the middle of the game every night.
We have a system that we try to follow. I will watch some of the game depending on how his first at bat goes and then I will fall asleep with my phone on loud, when he gets back to his apartment or hotel he will call me around 2 am to talk for usually five minutes. I just like to hear how his games go. I work in a school district so thankfully we only had to do that for about a month before the season was over and I was off for the summer. Two days after school ended, I was on a plane and headed for Fresno. Jon was rooming with A.J. Reed so his wife, Shelbie, was out there when I came. It was nice to have someone with you to do things with, rather than always being on your own other seasons.
Fresno fans and staff were some of the nicest we have ever met. There’s a family lounge we can sit in after the games, everyone was very friendly, they allowed us in the dugouts for fireworks and post-game activities, the season ticket holders were so great, and they even allowed us to come to the stadium on an off day to get our engagement pictures taken along with jerseys they had made us. We couldn’t have asked for much more from those people! With having my summers off, we were able to spend a lot more time together. I was home in Pennsylvania for maybe two weeks of the whole summer. We started in Fresno and then road tripped with Shelbie and AJ up to their Sacramento series, then back to Fresno again. Our favorite trip of the summer was the series in New Orleans. It just happened to be my birthday weekend and he had some amazing teammates and wives that made it that much better (Brady Rodgers, Josh Fields, Jordan Jankowski). Getting to meet all of the other teammates and their families is the most rewarding thing during the season. You make friendships that will last forever.
One more short trip out to Fresno in August and I was ready to start my school year again. With Fresno not making playoffs, Jon was home earlier than usual. This is when wedding mode kicked in. We have been working on planning, designing, food, and everything else that comes along with weddings. We also welcomed our new little pup, Nala, into the family. She definitely keeps us busy. Our off-season schedule usually consists of waking up around 6:30 and I go to work and come home around 5:00. Jon does his workouts and hitting during the day, and then is off to doing hitting lessons from 4:00 to 9:00. It has been a very busy couple of months but we also try to get in some relaxation like our recent trip to Mexico! Of course we took our gloves and played catch on the beach.
I can’t believe its almost time for them to report for Big League Camp. It is amazing how fast time flies when you want it to slow down, and how slow it goes when you want it to fly by. We have been blessed to be doing this for the past five years, and although it has been the craziest and most stressful thing we have ever gone through, it has been the most rewarding and eventful as well. It sure takes a lot of patience, late night phone talks, and lots of trip planning. It is crazy to think that since I met Jon five years ago, I have traveled to 30 different cities and states just because baseball has taken us there. I am thankful for the opportunity to travel around to see him follow out his dream, and our next step is just to take one day at a time and see what this upcoming season brings us!
Thanks again to Lauren for putting together this awesome piece on her and Jon’s journey through the MiLB!
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**Photo Credit: Jayne Hansen and Kiel Maddox**