It’s a scorching hot Thursday afternoon, Keefe Ammons sits across from me at a marble countertop overlooking all of downtown Cincinnati. He has just walked back over and hung up the phone with a potential investor for an mobile app. The apartment is month-to-month leasing due to the “here today, gone tomorrow” nature of professional baseball. In two hours he is due to head to UC Health Stadium to play in a simulated game with the Florence Freedom. Ammons, who missed all of last season due to a torn meniscus arrived in Florence, KY on Tuesday to join the Freedom as he gets reacquainted with the game of baseball.
Reporting to the Freedom is a huge deal to Ammons who has a ton of respect for not only the Florence based organization, but for the Frontier League as a whole. The Frontier League is full of former MLB draft picks and prospects poised to join MLB organizations.
“Just being here is huge for me” Ammons said. “Not only because of the recovery process but the fact that this is one of the the best professional baseball leagues in the world.”
Baseball itself isn’t the only thing that attracted Ammons to come to Florence, the location meant just as much if not more than the on the field opportunity. Just 90 miles away in Louisville, KY is: his longtime girlfriend Sara, a commitment to philanthropy, recruitment duties for the University of Louisville’s, National Club Baseball Association (NCBA) team, to go along with business interests that include Beechmont Little League and a day care for children. All of which Keefe believes will only aid him amidst the biggest challenge in his baseball career.
“Chicago is definitely home but Louisville has become a close second. Being able to be an hour away from everything I’m working towards there is priceless to me,” Ammons said. “My attitude towards baseball is that I give it 110% every time I lace up and leave it there. Regardless of my performance, everything else in my life remains the same. That helps because it’s the reason I don’t get too high or too low.”
The world of business can consist of a steady growth of success, however the game of baseball brings a journey of ups and downs. Disappointed by going undrafted as a Junior in 2016, Ammons quickly signed a professional contract to play in a now defunct independent league. There he slashed a productive .285/.319/.416 in 25 games. Then came the first injury of his career, he had strained his hamate bone in his left hand towards the end of that season. No surgery was required as he entered the off season and he later he signed to play with the PECOS league in 2017 which began with a trip to Houston to play for the Coastal Kingfish where he slashed 325/.366/.597. After a month spent there, Ammons was called to join the Whitesands Pupfish and he finished hitting only .241.
“I’m extremely happy the way my career has played out,” he said. “I learned to embrace the journey because it’s shown me that neither success nor failure is final.”
With his season over, Anmons headed back to Louisville to coach the NCBA Louisville baseball team. Included in the schedule was the first Louisville Alumni Challenge baseball game set to take place in April. Named 1 of 2 captains of the game along with Sutton Whiting, Ammons put on a show going 2-3 with a Double and single while stealing 3 bases on the night. In the 8th inning of the game, Ammons asked to come out after feeling discomfort in his right knee.
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“I don’t recall the exact moment I injured my knee because I never felt the infamous pop or unbearable pain,” he said. “Later in the game I started to feel pain when I made certain movements.”
Turns out Ammons had tore his meniscus in his right knee and would consequently miss the entire 2018. After what he describes as a much less than perfect rehab process, Ammons has finally made a return to baseball. In Florence lies an aggressive assignment to keep up and compete with a team who sits comfortably in first place at the time of writing this article, but he plans on enjoying every minute of it.
“I’m blessed to be here regardless of how the rest of my season plays out,” he said. “This team is and has been on a roll so my job is to get my work in and fit in the mold as much as possible to not interrupt that.”
It has been said over and over again that baseball is a game of repetition. It takes not one day of flashing your talent but a summer of consistency to truly leave a mark. After missing 14 months of baseball, it’s unlikely that Ammons will come back to be the same prospect immediately. He’ll just have to continue to be patient as he tries to work back to being the toolsy ballplayer he was over a year ago.