Trejyn Fletcher rounds third after one of his two home runs this season for the Johnson City Cardinals. Fletcher, of Portland, is in his first season of professional baseball. Photo courtesy of Johnson City Cardinals

The whirlwind has started to slow a bit for Trejyn Fletcher.

The 2019 Deering High graduate and second-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals is well into his third month of his first season of professional baseball, playing for the Johnson City (Tennessee) Cardinals in the rookie Appalachian League.

“It’s definitely starting to settle into more of a routine. You just do something every day, especially something you really enjoy doing, so it’s pretty good,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher, 18, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound center fielder, also has experienced some typical struggles of a rookie ballplayer: learning to cook his own meals, buying groceries, arranging for travel to and from the ballpark, and, especially, laying off breaking pitches out of the strike zone.

For now he’s relying on a teammate who owns a car or team buses for transportation. He’s using his modest minor league paycheck to pay for food and other essentials. Fletcher said after the season he plans to use some of his $1.5 million signing bonus to buy a car.

Right now his focus is squarely on becoming better at hitting against pitchers with a lot more “polish,” as he put it, than what he was seeing just a few months ago playing high school baseball in Maine.

“Definitely there’s been some struggling but for the most part I feel I’ve been doing pretty well, especially with the transition from high school to pro baseball in such a short time,” Fletcher said.

It took Fletcher just nine games to show the Cardinals he was ready to make the move up from the Gulf Coast League Cardinals to Johnson City. With the GCL Cardinals, the lowest of St. Louis’ three tiers of rookie league teams, Fletcher hit .297 and slugged .541 with two home runs and three doubles.

At Johnson City, Fletcher started 2 for 16 with 10 strikeouts in his first four games. Entering Monday night’s game, Fletcher is hitting .235 with two homers, a triple and four doubles, with seven stolen bases in eight attempts. But he’s struck out 58 times in 119 at-bats.

“When I first moved up I was way too aggressive and swinging at everything, and that put me in a huge hole,” Fletcher said. “I was swinging at the first pitch regardless and not recognizing the breaker right away. Now I’ve seen more breakers, and it’s more easy just to lay off on the breakers in the bottom of the zone and outside.”

To those within the Cardinals’ organization, Fletcher’s strikeouts are not unexpected.

“It’s his first year,” said Gary LaRocque, the director of player development. “If you asked Tre if striking out matters, he would say every time it matters a lot because he’s so competitive and that’s a good thing.”

LaRocque added, “as with most players, they’ll all go through that stretch where they’re still adjusting to the league and the pitching. It’s still such a small sample size.”

“That’s what happens in this league,” said Roberto Espinoza, Johnson City’s manager. “You’ve got these high school guys (like Fletcher) and sometimes you’re facing college guys, and you’ve never really faced guys with that type of stuff, and you’re facing some Latin American players who are throwing a lot of (velocity) and you’ve never seen that.”

Espinoza said he’s seen Fletcher make progress. Fletcher was hit by a pitch near his left wrist on Aug. 16 and didn’t make a plate appearance for six games, returning Aug. 22. In his three games since, Fletcher has gone 3 for 11 with a hit in each game, and struck out only three times.

Johnson City is in striking range of making the Appalachian League playoffs, and its final three-game series against Kingsport this week probably will decide things. Kingsport and Johnson City are tied for second, a half-game behind the West-leading Bristol Pirates. The top two teams in each division advance.

“It would be a good situation for all the guys on the team to have that experience in the playoffs,” Fletcher said. “Even though it’s rookie ball, it’s a good experience for anyone to have.”

Trejyn Fletcher of Portland, a second-round draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals, has seven outfield assists. Photo courtesy of Johnson City Cardinals

Fletcher’s play in the outfield has consistently impressed. He has seven outfield assists, including three in one game.

“He has good speed, gets into routes to the ball well and he goes back to the wall,” LaRocque said. “He has a lot of confidence as an outfielder and you see that right away with him.”

“Defensively he can play at any level (of professional baseball) right now,” said Espinoza. “At this point I could say he’s capable to do a decent job at any level in the outfield.”

Fletcher also has embraced his interactions with fans and the greater Johnson City community, according to Zac Clark, the minor league club’s general manager.

“We asked for volunteers to go to the local children’s hospital and he was one that stepped up,” Clark said. “He’s always one that’s happy to sign autographs and talk to kids before the game. He’s just a good kid, light-hearted and fun to be around.”

“Whenever they ask for an autograph, I never say no. The children’s hospital, I’m definitely going,” Fletcher said. “I remember someone saying, ‘You never know if that’s the last time someone is seeing you.’ So you want to put a good impression on them.”

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