By Alexis Brudnicki
Canadian Baseball Network
MANCHESTER, New Hampshire – Somewhere along the way, from spending the last two seasons between Lansing and Dunedin, to breaking camp out of spring training this year with double-A New Hampshire, Sean Reid-Foley lost sight of what brought him to the Fisher Cats in the first place.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound right-hander – selected by the Blue Jays in the second round of the draft out of Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, Fla., just three years ago – had his most successful season last year, going 10-5 with a 2.81 ERA over 115 1/3 innings with 38 walks and 130 strikeouts between the Midwest League and the Florida State League.
Upon his arrival in Manchester, where he is three-and-a-half years younger than the Eastern League’s average age, the 21-year-old found himself trying too hard to be perfect, with the opposite results.
“The first three or four weeks of double-A, I kind of psyched myself out,” Reid-Foley said. “Now, it’s fine, it’s just another level, and I’m getting better every day, just working at it. At the beginning, I just thought everybody was a lot better. Obviously, everyone is older, but they don’t miss a lot as hitters. I thought that I had to be perfect, and that’s not the case.”
Reid-Foley had experienced the same feelings – and outcome – once before, during his first stint with the class-A Advanced Dunedin Blue Jays. Two seasons ago, the righty started eight games for Dunedin, posting a 5.23 mark over 32 2/3 innings with 24 walks and 35 strikeouts. Through nine starts for the Fisher Cats this year, he has a 5.81 ERA in 31 frames, with 21 walks, fanning 32 batters.
What helped the hard-throwing hurler get over the hump two years ago is already assisting him this season, and he’s found ways to clear his mind when he begins to overthink on the mound – using a church in the distance beyond the left-field wall in New Hampshire to shift focus, and finding other far-off objects in other towns.
Reid-Foley believes he knows what he needs to do in order to get all the way back on track, though it will admittedly not happen overnight.
“It’s just about being who I am,” he said. “You can’t change who you are, no matter what level you go to, and what got you there works. I’m someone who wants to compete, first and foremost, and have fun while I’m doing it.
“There’s a big difference between that and competing and not having fun. If I get away from that, it’s very tough, because I put a lot of doubt on myself and a lot of pressure on myself, and that’s not who I am. I psych myself out and start thinking too much, and that’s just it.”
Already impressed by the young hurler and his grit, Fisher Cats pitching coach Vince Horsman (Halifax, N.S.) knows that Reid-Foley is better than the box scores would suggest, and is happy with the progress they’ve begun to make in New Hampshire, with much more on the horizon.
“He’s a bulldog,” Horsman said. “He started off the season really scuffling. His routine got messed up a little bit because of the weather. He had a couple mechanical issues that we’re working on, and we’re going to probably continue to work on it the remainder of the season to refine them.
“But he brings a lot of heart and intestinal fortitude out there. His last start, the line doesn’t look great from a statistical standpoint, but it was good. It’s that bulldog mentality. He’s going to be a really good starter, or a really good reliever, it’s going to be up to him. But I really enjoy watching him pitch.”
A bulldog in everything he does, Reid-Foley’s competitive nature can occasionally get him into some trouble, but it has continued to help him on the hill throughout his four minor-league seasons, and for that he has his 26-year-old brother David to thank.
“Honestly, that’s just how I am with competing,” he said. “Actually, this past off-season, my brother and I almost got into a fight and we were just working out, because that’s just how we are. We were just lifting, and it got a little competitive, but that’s how we are. From Day 1, being with my brother I was always playing up at his age.
“I had to play to their level or I had to get off the field, or get off the court, and go inside from the cul-de-sac where we lived. I’m just always trying to live up to everything, and I have to give a huge shout out to my brother for my competitiveness, because without him I don’t know if I would be as competitive as I am.”
Released during the off-season, David Reid-Foley spent three years in the Dodgers organization after signing as a free agent following his senior season with the Mercer University Bears, who he joined after two years with South Georgia College. Currently working at a gym and teaching baseball lessons in his spare time, living with his wife and dog in his younger brother’s home in Florida, Sean is still unsure of whether or not his sibling is ready to leave the game they both love.
“We haven’t really talked about it, but I know in the back of his mind he still wants to play,” the younger Reid-Foley said. “But also, if he’s only able to play [independent] ball, he knows it may not be enough to support that little family that he has now, so that’s why he’s working.
“But my mom [Beverly] and I have talked to him a lot and said, ‘What you want to do it’s fine and we’ll support you.’ All he’s really said is just, ‘Okay.’ He’s kind of a closed book. You can’t really get much out of him. That’s how he’s always been.”
During the winter months, Reid-Foley saw his brother’s professional dream taken out of his own hands, which was not only difficult for David, but also for Sean as he watched it unfold.
“It hit home,” he said. “We’ve been doing it since we were both three-and-a-half, and he got to 25 and they took the jersey off his back. Now, it’s more that if he stops playing I want him to look at me and be proud, because – obviously I’m not living for him – but I want him to be a part of it and I want him to know he helped create that, because he did.
“He’s one of the few people I have to thank whenever I do make it. And whenever I’m done, it will still always be him and a couple others. But I know what he’s doing right now, he’s happy. It’s a good place where he’s at right now.”
David’s brother is also in a pretty good place at the moment, with a talented Fisher Cats team that has four wins in its last five games, and is just beginning to put it all together on the field in New Hampshire.
“We’re starting to kind of figure it out this season, everyone as a team,” Reid-Foley said. “So it’s starting to get back to how it was and it’s getting fun. At the beginning of the year it was good, and then we scuffled for about a month or so, and we got back to the basics and started having fun, trusting everything that we’ve been taught, and now we’re running with it.
“I’m loving it here. We all knew we had a really good team but it kind of took us all a little bit to realize what we had. We knew we were good but we just expected a lot of stuff, we didn’t go out and do it. In the last week we’ve definitely shown that we’re not expecting anything. We’re going out and doing it and it’s definitely showing.”