Every time Joe Sever steps into the batter’s box, he drags his spikes through the dirt. Blurring the chalk lines may dirty up the diamond, but for Sever, the slate is wiped clean.
Sever, a 22-year-old San Jose, California native, was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 21st round of the 2012 draft out of Pepperdine University. The six-foot infielder has a valuable amount of experience under his belt as he also played in the Cape Cod League last summer and the Northwoods League in 2010. There, Sever received the benefits of being challenged as he played against some of the country’s top collegiate players.
“Playing against top D1 players in the country was really important for me to kind of get the speed of the game and see the other talent out of the country,” Sever noted. “Seeing that I could hang with them was very important for me, especially in a confidence type of deal. It gave me confidence when I went back for my junior year at Pepperdine to do well and to kind of know what to expect coming here.”
Sever seized the opportunities presented to him at Pepperdine as well. He led the Waves with a .310 batting average and was selected to the All-Freshman Team his first year and as a sophomore, he led the team in home runs, runs scored, RBIs, doubles and total bases. Sever feels his college experience was a significant piece to his success as it solidified his confidence and provided him with an inimitable learning experience.
“It was awesome,” Sever said. “It’s a top D1 program on the west coast. Playing against big schools like UCLA and Fullerton on a day-to-day basis really helped me. It taught me how to win. I had great coaching there from [Steve] Rodriguez and it was a great experience overall.”
Now, Sever is utilizing the skills and lessons he learned during his college days to generate more success with the short-season Scrappers. Sever has split time between both second and third base, but his bat has made the most impact. The infielder is presently hitting .289 with eight doubles, 13 RBIs and a home run this season and his swing has even more sway than his stats suggest.
Sever was the runner-up in the New York-Penn League Home Run Derby this past week as he hit five long balls in the first round before falling to Williamsport Crosscutters’ slugger Chris Serritella in the final round. Sever also showcased his talents in the All-Star Game as he laced a single for one of two hits by the Scrappers’ representatives. Sever had not participated in a home run derby since his high school days, but he handled the pressure like a professional.
“It was fun. It’s a lot more nerve-racking in front of all these people instead of just my high school, but it was a lot of fun, it was a blast,” he said.
Sever has a relaxed, professional approach at the plate, but that doesn’t stop him from implementing his hitting routine. “I always wipe the box off in-between each pitch to I guess symbolize it’s a new pitch, brand new mindset,” he explained. “I do little things here and there to try to get me in the swing of the bat.”
With his swing in full force, Sever is now focusing on the opposite side of the game. “I’m trying to work on my defense a lot. I’m trying to polish that up,” he said. “I want to play second or third base here and also just be more consistent and try to not slump as much and balance out the highs and lows of the game.”
The highs and lows are inevitable in the minor leagues, but Sever doesn’t see the grind as a hassle. If fact, he’s enjoying the experience as he and his teammates find ways to push through the highs and lows.
“A lot of people say it’s a grind, but it’s what we all want to do,” he explained. “You know, play baseball every day, so it’s really not that much of a grind. You’ve just got to find ways to keep yourself busy in your down time. I’m trying to read a little bit more and stay focused on baseball and have fun with teammates. It makes time go by a lot faster and it makes the grind a lot easier.”
The grind may be easier, but the bus trips aren’t for the Scrappers who enjoy their shut-eye. “You don’t want to fall asleep first,” Sever laughed. “But there are a lot of games being had and it’s fun. You’ve got to find a way to pass the time. There’s a lot of joking around, especially with our team. There’s a lot of goofballs on it, so you’ve got to watch your back.”
Luckily for Sever, someone else has his back: John Elway. Elway is Sever’s uncle, and though Elway hurled a pigskin instead of a four-seamer, Sever has learned a lot from growing up with a professional athlete in the family.
“I think it’s really helped here because growing up, I kind of experienced second-hand the life of a pro athlete, what he went through and how to handle your life on and off the field, so it was really beneficial for me and he’s got a lot of great advice. It’s awesome to have him to look for those things and it helped a lot.”
Of course, Elway is not one of Cleveland’s most favored athletes, but Sever hopes to at least make fans think twice. “Hopefully, I can change their opinions a little bit on the Elway family,” he said.
But even if he can’t make fans forget ‘The Drive’, Joe Sever hopes to touchdown in Cleveland someday, except in an Indians’ uniform.
Stephanie is a crime and general assignment reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio. She’s an alumna of Cleveland State University with a degree in Journalism and Promotional Communication. You can follow her on Twitter @7thInningSteph.