Has a Mini Field of Dreams Helped Develop the Athletics Next Star?

John Hickey

Daulton Jefferies has known Tyler Soderstrom since Jefferies was about 8 years old.

Jefferies, a right-handed pitcher and former first-round draft pick (2016) of the Oakland A’s, is in perfect position to give Soderstrom career advice with the Turlock High catcher having been made the 2020 first-round pick of the A’s Wednesday.

He won’t. Soderstrom has to decide whether to pursue his professional dream or play high-level college baseball at UCLA. Jefferies, who pitched three years at Cal before signing with the A’s, says that decision is far too personal for outside input.

“I’m super excited for him, and he’s excited, too,” Jefferies said Thursday morning. “I can’t speak for him, but he has all the upside in the world. He’ll be fine either way. He’d be a great fit for Oakland.

“But I want to kind of stay away from all that stuff. It’s his decision and his family’s decision.”

And since Soderstrom’s father, Steve, was himself a first-round draft pick as a pitcher in 1994, Tyler won’t have to look far for advice. Soderstrom, Sr. had a seven-year pro career that included a bit performance in the Show, going 2-0 in three starts for the Giants in 1996.

After he was done, Steve returned to Turlock as an almond grower. Along the way he leveled part of the orchard to create a mini Field of Dreams in California’s Central Valley. It was there that Jefferies spent much of his time as a kid, playing with Tyler’s older brother, Tate – currently a junior outfielder/first baseman at Arizona – and learning some of the art of pitching from the former big leaguer. And during much of his time there, Tyler Soderstrom was Jefferies’ catcher.

Jefferies recommends him highly.

“I’ve been throwing to him since he was a freshman in high school,” Jefferies said. Jefferies’ Atwater home is about a 20-minute drive from the almond prchard. “He’s very interactive as a catcher, and he’s very detail oriented. And that’s very hard to find in a high-school player.”

While many players have found it difficult to continue workouts with baseball shut down at the pro, collegiate and high school levels, Soderstrom and Jefferies were among those who have access to facilities, thanks to the almond orchard.

“It’s legit,” Jefferies said. “The fences are about 260 or 300 feet. There’s a barn that's been there since I first went there when I was eight. I’ve known the Soderstrom family pretty well all that time, and the field is a little Field of Dreams.”

These last weeks have seen Jefferies, trying to get past a bicep strain that shut him down before spring training was halted on March 12 by the advent of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, steadily get healthier. He’s been able to throw four or five bullpen sessions as his strength has come back, and most of those have been throwing to Soderstrom.

“I’ve thrown to him a bunch during this downtime,” Jefferies said. “It’s easy to tell that he has great upside as a catcher.”

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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