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Three Surgeries Later, Daulton Jefferies Indeed Appreciating Opportunity With Pirates

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Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Daulton Jefferies delivers during the ninth inning of the team's baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays in Pittsburgh, Friday, June 21, 2024. The Rays won 10-3. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PITTSBURGH — Job hunting is common for just about any 21-year-old. It’s right about the age where college students graduate and step into the real world to embark on their professional careers.

For a 21-year-old professional baseball player and former first-round draft pick, however, looking for a job is rarely something that needs to be done. 

But for Daulton Jefferies, scrolling through job openings after undergoing Tommy John surgery seven years ago became a reality.

“My first (surgery) was in 2017, my first pro ball year,” Jefferies told Pittsburgh Baseball Now. “Pretty young, didn’t really know much. I was looking for jobs on Indeed.com because I just didn’t know.”

While the focus for Jefferies’ job search was coaching positions, he ventured outside of baseball and was intrigued by an opening at a popular sandwich chain.

“There was a Subway job that I actually looked at. It was called ‘sandwich specialist,’ which I thought was pretty funny,” he joked. “But just coaching jobs and something I’d probably have to go back to school for.”

As Jefferies became more familiar with the process, he realized that Tommy John surgery has become a more and more common procedure in professional baseball with a high rate of success. 

What he didn’t realize was that he would have to undergo another Tommy John surgery in 2022 only months after undergoing an even more dreaded procedure – thoracic outlet syndrome – which took place that July. 

Though it would seem like his recovery the second time around would be even more grueling, Jefferies was in a much better place than when he took to Indeed to think about a non-playing profession.

“My second time around was a lot better mentally just because I knew what to expect.” Jefferies explained. “Family, friends, teammates, my fiancé, just a whole bunch of support and betting on yourself. You’re not gonna let something come between you and the game and you just kind of keep fighting back.”

It’s hard not to notice Jefferies’ love for the game when talking to him. The passion is in his blood.

Jefferies’ older brother, Jake, played six professional seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins. The elder Jefferies reached Triple-A in the Marlins’ organization in 2013 before walking away.

In addition to his brother, Jefferies’ uncle, Blas Minor, pitched for the Pirates as a reliever from 1992-94.

“He was one of the first calls I made when I got traded over here which was awesome,” Jefferies said of his uncle. 

The 28-year-old made his Pirates’ debut against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night at PNC Park. He covered three innings out of the bullpen and allowed three runs, all on one home run swing from Ben Rortvedt with two outs in the ninth inning during the Pirates’ 10-3 loss

Performance aside, the mere fact that Jefferies is back on a big-league mound after everything he’s been through is a true testament to his determination and his beaming passion for baseball.

“I think with every injury I’ve had I’ve gained a new love for it just because I got it taken away three times and I’m just super fortunate to be back here,” he said. “I love being in the clubhouse. I love being on the field.”

No matter what the future holds for the right-hander, getting the chance to continue his dream of playing in the big leagues with Pittsburgh is an opportunity that excites Jefferies.

“Seeing Jared Jones, Paul Skenes, (Bailey) Falter and Mitch (Keller), and all these guys just throwing the heck out of the ball and they’re young … The veteran presence that we have, it’s a really special team and it’s a really special group. You can see that without even being in the locker room. And I’ve always wanted to play here. I think it’s the most beautiful stadium.”

That sounds like it certainly beats making Subway sandwiches.

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