Former Lee County baseball star Jess Posey walked on at UGA and made an impact in his first year, hitting .297 in limited playing time. Now he’s focused on sharpening his skills during collegiate summer league by playing with the Lima Locos in Lima, Ohio. (Richard Parrish/Lima (Ohio) News)
LIMA, Ohio — The Posey household would just as soon forget 2011.
San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey went down with a broken leg and torn ligaments in his ankle after a play at the plate in May that year, missing the remainder of the season. Buster’s younger brother, Jess, missed his junior season at Lee County with a back injury.
These days, things are a little brighter.
Buster has since won another World Series and was named the National League MVP in 2012, while Jess is coming off a great true freshman season at Georgia, starting 16 games and hitting .297 with four doubles, two home runs and driving in 12 runs in 64 at-bats. And now he’s in full-swing with summer ball, playing as a member of the Lima (Ohio) Locos, who play a 40-game schedule in the Great Lakes Collegiate League until the end of July — with not many off days.
And while Buster is in the midst of his fourth major league season, Jess is admittedly just thankful to be playing again.
A highly touted high school pitcher, he had a 1.93 ERA as a sophomore, but pitching eventually took its toll by his junior year.
“I didn’t play my junior season because of a stress fracture in my spine due to pitching,” Jess said. “My senior year for me was to see what I could do and get healthy.
“(The injury) came from pitching over and over so much. (My back) bothered me and we had an MRI and we finally found it. It’s going to be with me for the rest of my life, but I’ll deal with it. It bothers me every now and again, but it’s doing well right now.”
As a senior at Lee County, Jess went 7-1 with a 2.38 ERA and one save. He had 55 strikeouts in 50 innings. He also hit .386 with 10 doubles.
But missing his junior year hurt him in the eyes of scouts.
“I ended up walking on at Georgia and I gave it a shot. I went to Georgia as a pitcher. I thought I could hit and they asked me if I wanted to give it a shot, and I did,” he said. “They liked me better with the bat than on the mound.”
Buster, now 26, is seven years older than Jess, but the two did play plenty of ball together over the years in the backyard.
“We always played Wiffleball in the yard,” Jess said. “We had cows and we’d have the fences set up with an electric fence and we’d play home run derby and invite friends over.”
In high school, having the name “Posey” brought with it plenty of jeers from the opposing dugouts.
“In high school, the (ribbing) was pretty bad. All the kids in Georgia knew. “I got it I just try to be my own person. I’m really proud of Buster, but I try to do my own thing and play the game to the best of my ability.”
As for this summer, Posey wants to get back in a hitting groove after only 64 at-bats this spring. His new coach at Georgia, Scott Stricklin, also wants him to get a look in the outfield.
“I just want to see the ball and hit it and make solid contact,” he said. “That’s all you can do, is to make good contact. Whatever happens after that is up for grabs.
“I played second in college, but I’m trying this outfield thing. I’ve never played there before so I’ve been taking balls there in BP. I’m going to see how it works out.”
Jess said he’ll keep some simple advice in mind that Buster has given him over the years.
“He’s told me it’s a game of failure,” Jess said. “You’re going to fail. A Hall of Famer is going to get a hit three out of 10 times, (so you) just (have to) stay relaxed. As long as you’re relaxed and having a good time, that’s baseball. It’s supposed to be fun.”
The Locos’ 40-game schedule in the Great Lakes Collegiate League doesn’t end until July with there rarely being much time off.
One off day for the Locos is Monday — the same day Buster’s Giants travel to Cincinnati for the start of a four-game series.
“I think a bunch of the guys are going to go to the game that day,” Jess said. “I don’t know if he can get us all tickets, but he’ll see what he can do.”
After that, he’ll dig in for what should be a long and rewarding summer of baseball. Jess just hopes his back allows him to play and stay healthy, as well.
“I feel really good right now, I just have to get back in the groove of baseball shape and swinging shape,” he said. “Once I get it here, I’ll be good.”