BELLVILLE, Ohio — Travis Hissong’s dream is within reach.
The 2010 Clear Fork graduate continued his rapid season-long ascension through the New York Yankees’ farm system when he was promoted to the Trenton Thunder of the Class AA Eastern League on Saturday.
“Playing for the Yankees is a dream come true,” Hissong said when he signed with the organization as an undrafted free agent in June of 2014. “I have photos of me when I was little wearing a Yankees hat. This is the opportunity of a lifetime.”
The hard-throwing right-handed relief pitcher made his first Double-A appearance in the second game of a doubleheader in Akron last Saturday. Hissong allowed two runs on three hits while striking out three in 3.1 innings of work during Trenton’s 4-3 win.
“The starting pitcher got hurt, so Travis came into the game in the second inning. He didn’t even get a chance to warm up in the bullpen,” said Brendan Liberti, Hissong’s high school teammate, who made the trip to Akron’s Canal Park. “I talked to him afterward and he said the phone rang and they told him he was going in and he would warm up on the mound.
"Those guys all have routines to get ready and he was just thrown into the fire.”
Hissong walked the first man he faced before inducing a double-play ball. He retired eight straight before giving up a leadoff homer in the fifth.
“The box score doesn’t look great because he gave up two runs in a little more than three innings, but he dominated,” Liberti said. “He was throwing 94 to 95 (mph) on the stadium radar gun and hit 96 a couple of times.”
The promotion to Trenton is the latest development in what has been a breakout season for Hissong. He began his third season of professional baseball with the Single-A Charleston Riverdogs.
Hissong gave up one earned run in 16.2 innings pitched and struck out 23 before getting called up to the advanced Class A Tampa Yankees of the Florida State League on May 9.
In 13 appearances with Tampa, Hissong was 3-1 with two saves and a 1.80 earned run average. He struck out 26 and walked just one.
In 36.2 innings between Charleston and Tampa, Hissong struck out 49 and walked four. He has the lowest walk rate in the entire Yankees’ farm system.
“Am I surprised at what he has done this year? Not really,” Liberti said. “When it’s a guy from little Clear Fork High School, it’s a little surprising, but I know how hard Travis works and he has a lot of God-given ability.”
Class AA is the second highest tier of minor league baseball. It’s not unusual for players to jump directly to the big leagues from Double-A.
Could such a jump be in Hissong’s future?
“Nothing that Travis does surprises me because I know how hard he works,” said former Clear Fork teammate Jake Dickerson, who attended Hissong’s Class AA debut in Akron with Liberti. “He has always pushed himself for as long as I have known him.”
If he does make the Yankees’ major league roster, Liberti doesn’t expect the new-found fame to change his longtime friend.
“He is still the same guy,” Liberti said. “When we talked to him after his game in Akron, it was like he was never gone. It was the same as it always was.”
Former teammate Joe Staab agreed.
"We can go a year without seeing him and we will pick up right where we left off," said Staab, the head coach at Wynford high school. "We're living completely different lives, but it's like he never left. We still have the same stupid conversations we had when we were in high school."