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story.lead_photo.caption Former Pleasant Grove star player and Dallas Baptist University graduate Jarod Bayless fires a fastball in a minor league game in this undated photo. Bayless was drafted by the Seattle Mariners and is working his way up through the minor league ranks as a pitcher. (Submitted photo)

TEXARKANA, Texas — Jarod Bayless' dream has become his life.

Bayless, a graduate of Pleasant Grove High School and Dallas Baptist University in Texas, was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 2019 Major League Baseball draft. His journey has been one of faith, hard work, dedication and fun.

"Getting drafted was a dream come true, and it was something that I always wanted to do," Bayless said. "It was my goal, and I knew it was something that I was going to do. Being a professional player is an awesome milestone. Every so often it really hits me that I am a professional player and I think, 'This is really fun.'"

Bayless started out at San Jacinto College, then went to Northeast Texas Community College and finally to Dallas Baptist for his last two years.

DBU's baseball team is in Division I and, despite its small size, is highly competitive. The Patriots helped Bayless find his identity as a player.

"The main thing at Dallas Baptist is knowing that you are more than just a baseball player and more than just an athlete. A lot of high school players want to do well to help their family; that is fine. But the narrative becomes that you are an athlete. What happens when you have a bad outing? Does that mean that you are a bad person? Thoughts like this can easily creep into your head.

"As a Christian, I am able to say that I am more than a player. I am a child of God—ultimately, that is my identity. So no matter how good or bad I do on the field, who I am as a person is unaffected. When I leave the field, I can go home with a calmness and a peace."

Bayless does his work for the Lord in a way that is pleasing and acceptable. His beliefs laid the groundwork down in helping him compete at a high level every day.

The Patriots' baseball analytical information greatly helped Bayless in his pitching performance. The former Pleasant Grove star used data and the advice of his coaches, such as throwing his fastball higher, to improve.

"They told me to throw my fastball higher, which was unconventional," Bayless said. "But there is science behind it and it worked. I went from having a 4 ERA in junior college to a 2 ERA in my first year at DBU. I averaged 18 strikeouts per nine innings, and that was one of the best years that I ever had in my career. It set me up to hit the ground running in pro ball."

Minor League Baseball has five levels, from lowest to highest are: rookie ball in Arizona, short season rookie baseball, low A, high A, AA and AAA. Bayless started in rookie ball in Arizona in which games are not played in front of fans. He has worked up quickly and is with the Everett AquaSox of the short season rookie baseball league. This league plays in front of fans.

"My biggest goal is to prove that I can be a big leaguer," Bayless said. "There are about 100-150 pitchers in the minor league organization. I have to prove myself to be one of the top three pitchers in the organization. I will start pitching against the best of the best. I will have to stand out among those guys. I don't try to change myself, I trust that when they drafted me, they saw something in me.

"The team atmosphere is one of my favorite aspects of baseball. It may look like grown men playing baseball out there, but we are all just kids at heart. We joke around a lot. Even if you watch the big leaguers, they still act like kids. I like the spirit of the game, the camaraderie and the relationships that I build with my teammates."

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