Professional athletes are subjected to all sorts of stereotypes, some truer than others. Often you hear that there’s always that hot shot (who thinks his stuff doesn’t stink and to be fair it often does not), the utility guy (who is not the best hitter but helps the team immensely otherwise), good baseball IQ guy (can score a run on error), the good in the clubhouse guy (the guy who maybe be beyond his prime but is good for media), etc. It could be argued that all of these pieces help to build a collective, successful baseball team.
My favorite player or “guy” has always been the player who is good on the field and an even better guy off of it. Someone who values his character as much as the passion for the game. And while you could say that David Ledbetter is as good off of the field as he is on it, I’d still consider him a prime example.
Ledbetter was selected 99th overall by the Texas Rangers in the third round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. Prior to being drafted, he led all Division II pitchers in 2012 with an average of 13.65 strikeouts per nine innings. His record that year was 6-5 with a 3.15 earned-run average. His work at Cedarville led to him being named the 2013 Great Midwest Athletic Conference’s Pitcher of the Year. Coupled with being named MWAC’s Pitcher of the year, was ranked the Texas Rangers #19 prospect after the 2013 season by Baseball America.
From there he spent time with the Hickory Crawdads, Class A team for the Rangers. While the start to his career was not ideal (1-2 with a 9.98 ERA in his first four starts), Ledbetter was able to lean on family and faith to get him through the adversity. In one of his older posts on his (and brother Ryan’s) blog, Side by Side Baseball, he described baseball as a humbling game, and mentions that everyone is capable of losing. It happens.
And while that start to his professional career was probably very humbling (he’s a pretty humble guy, so he probably didn’t really need it), Ledbetter persevered and is currently playing Class AA with the Frisco Roughriders, with a 1.69 ERA, 12 strikeouts in 10.2 innings pitched. Not too bad of a start to the 2017 season hey?
He was kind enough to take some time to answer some questions for us, so here is the 7th Inning Stretch with David Ledbetter.
Not A Gameday Guide (NGG): You’re an identical twin, which is definitely pretty cool. Who is the better hitter between the two of you?
David Ledbetter (DL): Bringing out the tough questions from the start! I like it. Considering we haven’t hit in five years, I’d say it’s an even tie right now. Although, I do swing from the left side and he from the right… doesn’t that give me an edge?
NGG: Which one of you can grow the better beard?
DL: You decide…
NGG: If you didn’t play baseball, what sport would you have picked?
DL: Football would be an easy answer, but I played that in high school and it wasn’t my favorite. Had there have been no baseball, I think I would have really enjoyed tennis and rugby. There’s absolutely no correlation between the two, they just seem fun!
NGG: Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?
DL: You tend to follow what you like, so that would be pitchers – especially those I thought I could be like. So guys like Roy Oswalt, Cliff Lee, Tim Hudson, and Barry Zito were all guys I watched and thought, “oh my gerrrrrd, I wanna be just like them!!”
I knew I was never going to be over 6’2 or throw 100, so I liked the idea of just being a workhorse and being someone that everyone could depend on. These guys were DUDES!! And I wanted to be a dude.
NGG: Are you more of a TV, movie, or book kind of guy? Got any recommendations?
DL: Definitely a book kind of guy. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good flick or binge watching Stranger Things – but books are timeless.
I’m reading a book right now called How We Love by Milan and Kay Yerkovich. It’s about enhancing your marriage, but it has truly changed my perspective on my relationships with everyone. If you’re a fiction person, try Ted Dekker’s Circle Series (it’s a trilogy). And if you’re looking for your purpose or the reason you’re alive, read the Bible. It’s the only book where the author is in love with the reader.
NGG: Carpool Karaoke, what are some must have songs on your playlist?
DL: If I had to choose what to sing, it’d be anything that requires a scream-sing in the upper ranges. (Half serious-half kidding there.) I love to sing! On my playlist right now I have artists like Tauren Wells, Jon Bellion, John Mayer, Derek Minor, and Trip Lee.
NGG: Favorite off day activity?
DL: Doing whatever I want.
NGG: Which was the better moment, getting drafted by the Rangers with your brother or being voted as the Best Sideburns during Instructional League?
DL: No doubt the Best Sideburns of Instructional League was an honor, but I had an idea that I was a frontrunner for that award. I mean, look at those puppies!!But getting drafted to the same team was one of those things that I’ll carry throughout my life. You know the stories you talk about when you’re 80 on the front porch with a new friend? That’s a story I’ll be talking about.
NGG: Apart from the World Series, which sport has the best playoffs?
DL: March Madness has to be a favorite. No matter if you watch basketball a little (like me) or a lot, during the tournament you can turn on any game and it’s intense.
NGG: Describe one weird talent or quirk that you possess that not many people know about.
DL: I eat. A lot. So much so that it may be considered a talent.
NGG: Coupled with baseball, you write for Side By Side Baseball, where you and you brother talk about faith, baseball, fitness and a lot of things in between. What made you both decide to take on another project?
DL: I believe God gives us passions in our lives, not just so that we can enjoy them, but so that we can fulfill others through those passions as well! SBS Baseball is just a way for us to help those interested in being better people become better people by reading encouraging, thought-provoking articles. (At least, we’d hope that the content there is helpful.) Baseball is surely an incredible game filled with memories, fun, and many life lessons. But there’s more to life than baseball. A lot more. We have a responsibility to remind the youth that this is true. We should be pursuing our betterment as people – relation-ally, personally, and especially spiritually – just as we pursue betterment in baseball and sports and other things.
Just like the major bank exclaims, “Chase what matters!”
NGG: Minor league baseball can definitely be a grind both physically and mentally. Talk a little bit about life on the road: What’s the most difficult aspect of it? What do you do to pass the time?
DL: The hardest part of life on the road is the inability to ‘ground’ yourself to the community and the people and places around you. You’re constantly on the move, so the only people you can really experience life with are those who are on the move with you – your teammates. I think, for me anyways, that’s by far the hardest part. On the other side of that is the possibilities of developing new relationships with teammates and coaches that you’d otherwise never even talk to! It’s amazing to look back over the course of my career and think about the men I’ve met, encountered, and befriended.
NGG: Minor league life can also be tough on the family. Any advice for other long distance couples?
DL: Be open and honest. There’s no substitute for face-to-face contact, unfortunately. But with Facetime and other video conferencing apps it makes it nice to see the face of your family and friends along with their conversation.
My wife and I got married in December, 2012 and I got drafted in 2013. Since that time, she’s been in school pursuing a doctorate pharmacy degree and will graduate (finally!) this month! But we’ve learned a lot about the value of communication and the power of presence in our own relationship through long distance. The best thing you can do for yourself and your spouse (or significant other, fiancée, bae, etc.) is to be available and be honest. When you’re genuine, it allows your partner to see you for you and visa versa. That means being open about your feelings, situations, thoughts, etc.
NGG: How is your development for a reheat-able, healthy, delicious meatball coming along?
DL: I’m a passionate guy, but what I add in passion I lose in persistence. So the meatballs are on the back-burner until I can get through some other things first… but that idea is there for the taking if anyone is interested!
NGG: What’s next? (career or otherwise)
DL: Only God knows! I’m playing baseball now with the intention of making it to the Big Leagues. But I’m also trying to be the best husband, son, brother, friend, and person I can be in the meantime. There’s a billion things I could do in this life – I just want to make sure the few things I get to pick actually matter in the grand scheme of it all.
What an awesome guy hey? Faith, family, and baseball. It doesn’t get much better than that. We wish David and his brother, Ryan, all the best this season.
Also, if you’d like to follow along the development process of said reheat-able, healthy, delicious meatball, feel free to follow David below!