Reign Letkeman isn’t one to look to far into the future.
The 21-year-old Tampa Bay Rays pitching prospect realizes he has to concentrate on the present if he ever wants to progress through the Rays’ system.
“It’s a learning process and there will be ups and downs, and I have to continue to work to get better,” said the six-foot-three right-hander from Red Deer.
Letkeman, who was drafted out of Big Bend Community College in the 23rd round of the 2015 draft, is in his third season with the Rays organization. He played in the Gulf Coast League in 2015 and spent last year with the Rookie League Princeton Rays in the Appalachian League.
He played nine games in the GCL, three as a starter, posting a 1-3 record and a 7.01 ERA. Last year he was strictly a reliever, playing in 15 games and lowering his ERA to 5.19.
It doesn’t matter to Letkeman if he starts or is in relief.
“I think I kind of enjoy closing, but really I just enjoy playing.”
Letkeman is still in the Rays minor league facility in Port Charlotte, Fla., and won’t know where he may end up this season until June.
“We’re still in an evaluation period,” he said. “We work every day with the coaches and will know for sure where we’ll be once we break in June.”
He could return to Princeton or possible make the jump to the short season A Hudson Valley Renegades.
But right now it’s a matter of continuing to improve.
“My curve ball is my best pitch, but I’m trying new things, fine-tuning and working on other pitches, but mainly I have to work on my mechanics.”
Reign stresses it’s not an easy game.
“It’s a tough game and I’ve been here for some time now and I still have a long way to go. I just have to take it on a year-to-year basis.”
But he has seen an improvement.
“I have seen a drastic improvement especially with a couple of the things I’ve been working on.”
He knows he can still get physically stronger and to slow the game down.
“Sometime when I get going I get going too fast,” he said.
Letkeman came up through the Red Deer Minor Baseball system and played with the Red Deer Riggers before concentrating on his college career in the States. He always hoped to get drafted. He attended a sophomore showcase and drew some attention, but an injury appeared to sideline any hopes to being picked in 2015.
“I missed two-thirds of my sophomore season and I started to think there was always next year.”
However, once he returned the interest returned and there were ”eight to 10 scouts” at his final start.
“I was contacted by 12 teams and I felt I may get picked by Tampa Bay as they showed the most interest,” he said. “The 23rd round certainly isn’t high, but being from Canada it’s still exciting.”
He signed and found himself in the GCL.
“I got off to a tough start, my mechanics needed adjusting, but I was able to continue to advance and made Princeton the next year. I can’t say where I’ll be this year, but I can’t rush it.”
He will continue to work on all his pitches.
“My strength is that I can really spin it … a good breaking ball and I have some movement. I will continue to get stronger and work on changing speeds.”
The average age of a player making The Show is 24.5, so he’s still got time to progress.
“I don’t have a long-term contract or anything, it’s a year-to-year thing, but so far so good. I would obviously like to make the Major Leagues, but I also want to play for as long as I can.
“This game is deep in me and if I’m blessed to make the highest level great. If not and it’s obvious I won’t then we’ll see, but as of now I want to play for as long as I can.”
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.