All around the world: Bees pitcher Anthony Lerew hopes for one more shot at the big leagues
Fortunately for Lerew, he was playing in a completely different part of the country that wasn’t affected. In fact, the only major difference he noticed was a shortage in bottled water.
He decided to continue playing in Japan while other Americans playing there, spooked by the disaster, decided to return back to the U.S.
“I was on the other side (of the country), so I was OK,” Lerew said. “A lot of guys went home.”
He finished the season, soaking in opportunities to try new foods and visit historical sites around the country, like Hiroshima.
“I’m glad I hung out over there. It was a good experience,” he said. “You get to learn different cultures and be around different people and see how stuff works in other places.”
Lerew returned overseas again in 2012, signing with the Kia Tigers in the Korea Baseball Organization.
The game remained the same in many aspects wherever he went, but Lerew said one lesson he learned in Japan and in Korea is that the baseball fans over there are more ravenous and passionate than in America.
Lerew had seen a lot even early in his major league career, but never saw anything that rivaled the atmosphere there.
“The stadiums, the fans — it’s a lot more crazy,” he said, recalling his experience overseas. “Even crazier than the big leagues. I was with the Braves when they won the pennant, and the stadium wasn’t as loud as it is in Japan or Korea just during a normal game. They’re always loud no matter what.”
Standing in the shade a few feet away from the batting cage, Lerew pauses for a brief second to admire the mountain ridges that paint the background of Smith’s Ballpark.
“We have mountains in Pennsylvania, but these mountains are beautiful,” he says. “The snow on top of them and stuff.”
Perhaps Utah was the last place he expected to play next, especially after spending the last three seasons of baseball in Asia.
When the 2013 season ended in Korea, Lerew returned home to his wife and children in Pennsylvania. He also had offers on the table to return to minor league baseball.
However, the pitcher wasn’t sure what his game plan was. He had just turned 31 — still in his baseball prime. He was still healthy and still full of potential.
It boiled down to two options: return overseas or return to the minor league baseball grind.
“I had a couple of teams interested in me before the independent season started,” he said. “I just wasn’t in shape. I wasn’t ready because I wasn’t prepared. I was going to go back overseas, and then I actually changed my mind probably in the middle of spring training, so by then it was too late to sign with somebody.”
Wanting to show teams he could still pitch, Lerew found an independent team that played within a 20-minute drive of his home in Pennsylvania, and signed with the York Revolution in April.
“That’s actually why I chose to play in York,” he said. “I was glad they had me there. It was a good league. There are guys there that spent eight to 10 years in the big leagues trying to get one more shot.”
While there, he went 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in five starts.
It was enough to garner the attention of an injury-ravished Angels organization. He made his Bees debut at Smith’s Ballpark on May 24, allowing eight hits and four runs in four innings in a no-decision against Fresno.
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