Journey to the big leagues
Council Rock South graduate Billy Fleming named Eastern League’s Player of the Week
By Samantha Bambino
It was hardly past 9 a.m. and Billy Fleming was already warming up in the batting cages. Despite the impending game, the 24-year-old was laid back with the energy of someone who knew they’d crush it that day. The odds were surely in his favor. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Trenton Thunder infielder, Churchville native and Council Rock South alum was recently named the Eastern League’s Player of the Week for leading all players in slugging percentage, extra-base hits and total bases.
Though Fleming now has about three years of professional baseball experience under his belt, playing professionally was a long time coming. Growing up, baseball was always something he loved to play. His parents fully supported his interest and signed him up for tee ball, which he said was a common start for most of his teammates.
Fleming’s passion for sports remained constant throughout elementary and high school, where he also got into football. During his time at Council Rock South, he began the lengthy recruiting process for the minor leagues. With football, baseball, school work and a social life all on his plate at once, he admits things got stressful during this point in his life.
Things turned around his senior year when West Virginia University offered him a scholarship to play baseball there. He happily accepted. After three seasons of playing college ball, Fleming was signed in 2014 by the New York Yankees as a non-drafted free agent.
“It’s been a long journey but a fun one,” he said.
With his hometown a mere 30-minute drive from Arm & Hammer Park, Fleming said getting to play for the Trenton Thunder couldn’t have been more convenient. His family and friends often come to games to see him in action, and afterward, he can enjoy the comforts of home.
He’s also getting to live out his childhood dream.
“I love the professional baseball aspect of it,” he said. “You just focus on baseball and not a lot else. You have so many different guys you meet from all around the world.”
Last week, he was unexpectedly joined by a familiar face. Recently traded to the Yankees organization from the Blue Jays, fellow infielder Ryan McBroom played alongside Fleming at West Virginia. The day McBroom found out where he was headed, he immediately called his friend and the two were ecstatic.
“Leaving college, we thought we’d never play together again, which is a shame because we’re such great friends,” Fleming said.
So far this year, Fleming has been in both AA and AAA baseball. For a week in early May and again in late June through July, he played with AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The rest of 2017 has been with AA Trenton. Each month, Fleming has steadily improved, with July being his best with five home runs and 21 runs batted in while hitting .333.
It’s this drive for constant progression that earned him the Eastern League’s Player of the Week award for the period of July 10–16. Fleming batted .471 (8-for-17) with three doubles, three home runs, seven RBIs, three runs scored, one walk and a 1.176 slugging percentage in four games that week. He had at least one hit in all four games played and multiple hits in three of those games. He led all Eastern League players with that 1.176 slugging percentage, six extra-base hits and 20 total bases and tied for the league lead with the three homers.
“It was a nice honor,” he said of the recognition. “To help your team win and everyone playing together was fun.”
Right now, Fleming is focused on keeping this momentum going. Though he grew up a Phillies fan idolizing greats such as Chase Utley, he will proudly sport some navy blue pinstripes when the time comes.
“I’m going to keep working hard to achieve the goal of making the big leagues,” he said. ••
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com