Will Craig is attempting to get there, Justin Grimm is hoping to return there, Brett Martin is trying to stay there and Daniel Norris is seeking a breakout season there.
The destination is Major League Baseball and a quartet of locals in the pros are on a quest to do big things in the big leagues in 2020 as spring training begins in Florida and Arizona.
Craig, a former Science Hill High School star, is on the cusp and will likely make his MLB debut for the Pittsburgh Pirates at some point this season.
However, the 25-year-old first baseman is not putting any undue pressure on himself and has some Grapefruit League experience.
He’s hit .282 in 27 exhibition games with the Pirates over the course of the previous two springs.
“My mindset going into camp is to just prepare myself for the season,” Craig said. “I can’t control whether or not I break with the big-league club or not, but just being as ready as possible for the season wherever that may be is my goal.”
A first-round draft pick by Pittsburgh in 2016, Craig moved up the minor league ladder in each of his first four professional seasons. The slugging prospect batted .249 with 23 home runs and 78 RBIs for the Class AAA Indianapolis Indians last summer, struggling at times, but he was still among the International League’s top power hitters.
He did not receive a September call-up to the majors, but he’s already turned the page on 2019.
“I feel great both mentally and physically,” Craig said. “Physically, I am in the best shape I’ve been in in a long time. I dropped 25 pounds and am ready to go. Also, mentally I know what sort of got me in a bad place last year and now knowing that I can concentrate on the right things.”
Craig arrived at Pittsburgh’s spring training facility in Bradenton, Florida, on Monday after stopping to visit some relatives in Gainesville along the way.
The biggest obstacle for Craig is that All-Star Josh Bell is the incumbent first baseman for the Pirates.
However, he has shown the ability to play other positions.
He manned third base during his three seasons at Wake Forest University and played 13 games in right field last season for Indianapolis.
“The offseason I focused on getting in shape and being able to play multiple positions besides first base,” Craig said. “So becoming more diverse is something I’ve been working on.”
Grimm is trying to pitch his way back to the majors with the Milwaukee Brewers, an organization the Virginia High graduate signed with on Dec. 5.
The right-hander split last season between the Class AAA affiliates of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cincinnati Reds and did not pitch in a regular-season game at the big-league level.
He has 306 regular-season games, nine postseason outings and a World Series ring (with the 2016 Chicago Cubs) on his MLB resume.
“I’m super excited for this year,” Grimm said. “It’s obviously a new year and you get that refreshing feeling and everyone is getting ready to go. My goal for spring is just to get ready to pitch a full season healthy and just looking forward to contributing to the Brewers. I learned so much going through last year. Mentally, I’m refreshed and ready to go.”
Grimm is part of a crowded pool of players trying to land a spot in the bullpen for the Brewers.
“I like the situation here in Milwaukee,” Grimm said. “I think there is a possibility of a few spots being up for grabs, but I’m older now, wiser and not focusing on that and simply treating this spring like I’m getting ready to go for 162-plus games. The stuff is playing well and I’m gonna just continue the focus on being the best me possible.”
Left-handed pitchers Brett Martin and Daniel Norris both enter the season with some recent MLB success to build on.
A graduate of Morristown East High School, Martin was 2-3 with a 4.76 ERA in 51 appearances during his rookie season with the Texas Rangers in 2019 as the 6-foot-4 southpaw became a reliable reliever.
Norris was just 3-13 with a 4.49 ERA last summer for the Detroit Tigers, who were the dregs of the American League Central. Yet, the ex-Science Hill High School standout logged a career-high 144 1/3 innings and also struck out a career-best 125 batters.
“I think if he can just control himself and not let his emotions take over, he’ll be fine, because he learned an awful lot last year and he had some success and I think now he really feels that he can do some things,” Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire told MLB.com on Wednesday.
One player not taking part in spring training this year will be right-handed pitcher Tristan Archer as the former Sullivan South High School star has retired from professional baseball.
Archer was 27-23 with 11 saves and a 3.83 ERA in 289 regular-season games in the minors from 2013-2019. All but 10 of those appearances came in the Milwaukee Brewers farm system, where he spent three seasons at the Class AAA level.
Archer also had a 10-game stint with the Class AAA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds last summer.