By NEMCC Media Relations
BOONEVILLE, Miss. – When former Northeast Mississippi Community College Tiger Brandon Farley stepped onto a t-ball field at the age of four, the Cookeville, Tenn.-native was not doing it for the money; he was doing it for fun.
Fast forward almost two decades later and Farley is still doing it for fun.
Albeit, the location has changed from a tiny t-ball field to Indian School Park and Scottsdale Stadium in Scottsdale, Ariz., Farley still plays baseball for the fun of it.
Stadiums may have changed from Cookeville High School just north of Nashville, to Harold T. White Field in Booneville to Tomlinson Stadium-Kell Field in Jonesboro, Ark., Farley said that the passion for the game has never wavered and it was that passion that helped him reach professional status.
Farley still plays for the fun of the game.
“I enjoy everything about baseball, most people want to take vacations to beaches, I’m just fine with being on a baseball field every day,” Farley said. “It’s my place to escape from everything else and just have fun and perform.”
Fun is what Farley was doing when he first discovered he had been drafted by the San Francisco Giants with the 1,018th pick of the 33rd round of the 2012 Major League Baseball (MLB) first-year player draft.
“I was watching the draft and when it got to the 30th round, I got up and went outside and was hitting some golf balls and came back in to watch some TV,” Farley said. “That’s when my brother came in and told me. It was a pretty good feeling…but it would have been better to hear my name called.”
Farley may have missed his name being called but he has made up for it during his time with the Arizona League Giants.
In 10 appearances with the Giants, Farley is 1-0 with a 0.96 earn run average (ERA).
Farley’s only run allowed came in his first game with the Giants on June 21 and since that time the former Northeast Tiger has settled into his role and struck out 10 while giving up just five hits and has pitched nine innings of scoreless ball.
“Being a reliever, my greatest thrill is just coming in and giving our offense a chance to get back in the game, or if we have a close lead then holding them scoreless,” Farley said. “As long as I put up zeroes on the scoreboard; I’m happy with my performance.”
Farley finally realized his dream of playing professional baseball when he reached Arizona when he walked into the Giants clubhouse and saw his locker and jersey with his name on the back.
However, Arizona is a long way from the tiny town of Cookeville, Tennessee and there has been some adjustment that Farley has had to make.
“Arizona is way different,” Farley said. “It’s so much hotter out here. I got my first experience with a sandstorm the other day and it was quite an experience. I’ve had to adapt to the weather, the sandstorms and the dry heat. It’s hard to train in it but I’ve just got to get use to it.”
However, it was a chance encounter that led Farley to leave the Cookeville area and come to Booneville in the fall of 2008.
“One of my best memories would have to be when I was in high school pitching against Riverdale – one of the baseball powerhouses in Tennessee – and Coach (Kent) Farris had come to watch another kid he was recruiting,” Farley recalled. “He had no idea who I was. I ended up having the best outing ever – striking out 16 batters – and that’s what led to me going to NEMCC and I’m grateful and blessed to have had that opportunity.”
Farley didn’t take that opportunity for granted and transformed from a multi-position athlete into a right-handed pitcher and first basemanduring his time under Farris at Northeast.
During his sophomore year at Northeast, Farley averaged more than one strikeout per inning while on the mound and was a dual threat with a batting average over .350.
Farley also became a key to the Northeast defense and posted a .969 fielding percentage while splitting time between pitching and playing first base.
“I learned a lot when I was at NEMCC and matured a lot as a person and as a baseball player,” Farley said. “That credit goes to the coaching staff at NEMCC, they are not only coaching kids to become better baseball players but better men as well.”
Farley is also the second member of the 2008-09 Tiger baseball team to be drafted.Former Tiger Phillip Chapman (Clinton) was drafted out of the University ofMemphis during the 2010 MLB draft by the Minnesota Twins.
Whether it was class, baseball, friendships or families that Farley made the acquaintance of in Booneville, there was one lesson that the Cookeville-native said he took with him from his first year at Northeast.
“You just got to keep your priorities in check sometimes,” Farley said. “The first year was a little tough, trying to fit everything on my plate and it was a whole new world for me but once I got everything in control, I got in a daily routine and class and ball kind of got easier for me.”
Nonetheless, Farley said he would make the same decisions that he made while he was in Booneville and offeredadvice to those thinking about coming to Northeast.
“I would highly recommend prospects and recruits attend Northeast…because not only are you going to get a great education, you are going to get great training and you will improve your game daily,” Farley said.
“Strive to get better each day out and always work on something to improve your game. Never go through the motions, hard work pays off. You either get better or worse each day…you never stay the same.”
However, it was that mental and priority preparation that has helped form Farley into the pitcher he has become.
“The most challenging thing about baseball is the grind,” Farley explained. “You are playing so many games with few off days in month’s time; you just have to prepare yourself mentally and physically and take care of your body to make sure your body can make it through the season.”
Making it through the season is one thing that Farley has prided himself on – whether it’s the strict diet that he sticks to, the daily plan that the Giants minor league system has him on or his superstition he does before a game, everything helps give him that mental edge he needs to do his best on the mound.
“My superstition that I started in college with one of my teammates is before we would go warm up we’d both eat a piece of chocolate because cocoa releases a chemical into your body that calms you down,” Farley explained. “So we started doing that and we were doing really good so we just kept on doing it.”
However, no amount of chocolate will help Farley as he prepares for some people that aren’t playing the game for fun but for a paycheck.
“The strike zone is a whole lot smaller, and the hitters are more dangerous,” Farley said. “You just got to make your pitches and locate them. In pro ball you’re getting paid to produce and get the job done. So you have to find a way to get it done.”
Getting the job done is one thing that Farley has become accustom to doing but the former Northeast Tiger also looks at the game from a philosophical perspective and know that to succeed at baseball and the game of life, one must be willing to accept failure.
“Baseball is a game of failure; you’re going to fail a lot,” Farley said. “Once you start figuring out how to succeed that’s what separates you from the pack.”
However, no matter where he goes, or what league he might be in, Farley admits that his two years in Booneville helped to shape him into the man and ballplayer that he has become today.
“I just want to thank Coach Farris, Coach (Clint) McAuley and Coach (Richie) Harrelson for blessing me with theopportunity to play under them and for helping to develop me as a better ball player and a person and everyone that helped me out while I was at Northeast — the staff, local families, and it’s something that I’ll never forget,” Farley said. “Booneville is one of the most hospitable places I have ever lived; I enjoyed every minute I was there.”