Grand Prairie is only seven miles from Arlington, but the kind of professional baseball each city has is a thousand miles apart. Jason Jennings is somewhere in the middle. He pitched parts of ten seasons in the big leagues, including two with the Rangers, but injuries derailed his career. In an effort to revive it, the 33-year-old Jennings reached out to the Grand Prairie Air Hogs, of the Independent League.
"I've seen the highest of highs, and I mean, this is not the lowest of lows, but it is humbling, to say the least," said Jennings.
Chartered airplanes have been replaced by long bus rides, and sometimes his pitching workouts are conducted alone, throwing baseballs into a net. But Jennings' experience in the majors doesn't give him a sense of entitlement. He wants to get back, and right now, this is the way to do it.
"A couple of pitching coaches tell me to play until they rip the jersey off my back," said Jennings.
It's not as if Jennings needs baseball; he owns a business called Pastime Training Center. The company's slogan is something he takes to heart.
"'There's no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs,' and that's the philosophy I'm taking," said Jennings of the slogan on the back of his company's t-shirts. "Every step I can get closer and closer to possibly getting another chance in the Major Leagues, I'm willing to do."
When he's not pitching for the Air Hogs, Jennings instructs young pitchers on their mechanics, and he's a good teacher.But before he does that full time, he's hoping to prove that he's still a good pitcher.
"I feel like I still know how to pitch -- I know I still know how to pitch," said Jennings. "Whether that equates to getting outs in the big leagues, I don't know. I don't know if I'll get that chance. But I'm having fun doing it and hopefully it will lead to something."
His 7-1 record with the Air Hogs indicates he has something left; the question is whether that something will be good enough for the big leagues.