MILWAUKEE — In some ways, the Milwaukee Brewers have been better than expected. One of the big reasons is a pitcher who comes in to provide relief — something that never would have happened if he hadn’t found peace in his personal life.
“I’m just out there, in my own world,” Jeremy Jeffress said.
These days, it’s a great world for Jeffress. The Brewers reliever saved 23 games before the All-Star break — not bad for a starter turned reliever turned ninth-inning closer. Almost hard to believe.
“Sometimes I do pinch myself, because I — to get to this moment now, knowing where I came from, the road I’ve been down, it’s like, ‘man — I knew it could be real, but is it real?’ You know?” Jeffress said.
It has been a long road — back from being selected by the Brewers as the 16th overall pick in the 2006 Major League Baseball Draft, to testing positive for a “drug of abuse.”
Jeffress, who has juvenile epilepsy, said he used marijuana to try to treat his symptoms of insomnia, seizures and twitching.
In 2007, he was suspended for 50 games.
In 2009, he was suspended for 100 games.
One more failed test, and Jeffress will be banished for life.
Fortunately, he had a strong support system.
“I would have to say my mother and father — number one. God almighty, I prayed every day. The time I was down at the bottom, and then just knowing myself, that’s the biggest key of moving forward in life. Know who you are. Know what you want to do in life,” Jeffress said.
Jeffress moved on to Kansas City before the 2011 season in the Zach Greinke trade, and then to Toronto in 2013. The next year, he resigned with Milwaukee as a free agent.
“It’s just been a great pleasure, man, for the opportunity that the Brewers have given me. I commend it all to my teammates, because they pick me up every single day and they know the journey that I have been through and they know that I can play the game as well as I can, and it goes from the bottom up,” Jeffress said.
Through it all, the Virginia native learned valuable life lessons.
“The biggest thing I learned is nothing is given to you, you know? I was drafted in the first round. I was looked at as the prodigy, could be, of the franchise. But there’s hiccups. Hard work does pay off. Ever since the time I was down, I’ve been doing nothing but working hard, trying to get back to where I need to be and I know I need to be,” Jeffress said.
Now a 28-year-old veteran, Jeffress is trying to impart wisdom onto others who have had missteps and have gone through trials in life.
“You’re gonna fail, but don’t quit. Never give up. Don’t ever let nobody tell you you can’t do something. If you want it, go get it,” Jeffress said.
Jeffress has done that, and he’ll try to keep doing that — not only for himself, but for a special little girl in his life — fittingly named Jurnee.
“She just gives me great joy every single day. I FaceTime her. She’s in Phoenix right now, and she just says ‘Daddy’ on the phone and that right there, that just fills me every single day,” Jeffress said.
Jeffress says Jurnee inspires him to be the best he can be every day.