10/10/2016 9:22 AM
Former Mustang closer Brett Ash earned Southern League All-Star honors as the Jackson Generals won their second title in franchise history. (Photo courtesy Cody Cunningham/Jackson Generals)
JACKSON, Tenn. - Brett Ash's stint with the St. Joseph Mustangs only lasted about a month back in 2014, but that may have been one of the most impactful months of the hurler's young career.
Ash caught the eye of Bob Steinkamp, the MINK League commissioner and a scout for the Seattle Mariners, during a game at Phil Welch Stadium. Steinkamp quickly signed the Topeka, Kansas native, and Ash has not slowed down since.
The young man that transitioned from starting pitcher at Washburn University to lights-out closer with the Mustangs turned heads once again in his third season of professional baseball, and he led his team, the Jackson Generals (Mariners' AA affiliate), to its second Southern League title in franchise history.
"Our team in Jackson was incredible," Ash said of the championship squad. "I learned so much from all the guys, and we surely fed off each other and just expected to win. And it's not very often when all of that comes together and lasts an entire season, especially when you had as much movement of players up and down throughout the season."
Ash may be one of the next guys on the way up in the organization.
During his first season in Double-A, Ash was tied with a team-high 12 wins, was among the Southern League leaders with 135 1/3 innings pitched, and received the nod as a Southern League Mid-Season All-Star. He also threw seven scoreless innings en route to a game two win over Mississippi in the league championship series.
"I am very proud of the year I had for sure, but there are still a handful of things I need to sharpen up and build on to be the pitcher I know I can be. There are a couple of my pitches that I am building on and making more consistent, and when I do that, it will allow me to be more efficient and just tougher all around so that will be key to progressing."
Ash's journey to professional baseball began as an all-city pitcher during his senior season at Washburn Rural High School in Topeka, Kansas. That opened the door to a career across town at Washburn University.
During his time with the Ichabods, Ash set the school record with 25 complete games throughout his career. He's also second in career strikeouts and third in wins at Washburn.
Despite the stellar career as a starter, he was still searching for the right formula to break into professional baseball.
That's when Mustangs' manager Matt Johnson offered an alternative for Ash -- a key spot in the back end of St. Joseph's bullpen.
Ash shined as the Mustangs' closer with 10 saves in 10 chances, and 19 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings. He also held opponents to no runs and just two hits through 12 appearances. Those numbers led to the leap to professional baseball and the Seattle Mariners.
"I was so grateful for the experience of St. Joseph from the coaching to just the absolutely incredible atmosphere that St. Joseph provides -- which rivals many professional ballparks," Ash said. "I have just prided myself in being a great student of the game, and each year that I have progressed, I have been humbled in ways that have taught me many great lessons."
Those lessons continue this off-season for the hurler from Topeka that continues to take steps toward the big leagues.