After hitting Frontier League pitching like it was batting practice fodder for a season and a half, Stewart Ijames finally will have his shot in affiliated baseball.
Ijames, the Wild Things’ right fielder and one of the top players in the league, had his contract purchased Friday afternoon by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Ijames was called off the Consol Energy Field field during batting practice prior to the Wild Things’ game against the River City Rascals and informed that his contract was being sold to Arizona. He is being sent to the Arizona Rookie League.
“They are going to treat me like a player they just drafted,” Ijames said. “I’ve been told I could be there for two days or two months.”
Ijames was drafted twice, out of high school and following his junior year at the University of Louisville, but did not sign either time. He left Louisville ranking second on the Cardinals’ all-time RBI list.
“At Louisville, it was like a rollercoaster ride,” Ijames said. “I had good stretches but was inconsistent. I’ve been playing consistent baseball here.”
Ijames was batting .319 with the Wild Things and is tied for the league lead with 15 home runs. His 45 RBI are second in the league. A strong-armed outfielder, Ijames joined the Wild Things last year and led the league with 29 doubles while batting .297 and hitting 16 home runs in his first professional season.
“The guy was hitting everything,” Washington right fielder C.J. Beatty said. “It didn’t matter if the pitcher was throwing a bowling ball or a Tylenol pill, Ijames would hit it.”
Ijames was selected to the Frontier League All-Star Game in both seasons with Washington. He had one of the East Division’s six hits in the game Wednesday in Sauget, Ill.
“I had no clue the Diamondbacks were interested in me,” Ijames said. “At the all-star game, they made a big deal about a player (River City third baseman Taylor Ard) who was signed by Arizona that day. That was cool because he got a standing ovation. But I got to do that in front of the fans here. That meant more to me than anything else.”
Ijames took the Wild Things’ lineup card to home plate before the game Friday, then the public address announcer informed the spectators that Ijames had his contract sold to Arizona.
Ijames’ all-around play was a big reason the Wild Things entered the all-star break in first place in the East Division. He is among the league leaders in outfield assists, and twice in a three-game stretch last week he threw out batters at first base from right field.
“I had tears in my eyes during the national anthem. I didn’t want to leave this team,” Ijames said. “I’m thankful for the opportunity. I’ve never missed anything like I’m going to miss this team. It’s the best team I’ve ever played for.”
Ijames will be one of two former Wild Things in Arizona’s system. Pitcher Vidal Nuno (2011) is in the major leagues and in the Diamondbacks’ starting rotation.
“You’re hearing stories all the time about guys going from the independent leagues to the major leagues. I want to be one of those stories,” Ijames said.