For three consecutive years, Dillon Persinger was selected in the summer’s annual amateur entry draft, the Rule IV draft. In his first trip through the draft, the Cleveland Indians selected him in the 31st round of 2015, following a season at Golden West College, a junior college in Huntington Beach, California.
“The first time was a little bit of a shocker, I didn’t know what to expect,” said Persinger about his three trips through the draft process. “As the years went on, there was a little less anxiety each time.”
In 2016, he was a 17th round selection by the Los Angeles Dodgers. For the native of Fountain Valley, California, it was a difficult decision to pass up signing with his hometown team to attend Cal-State Fullerton.
“That was a huge decision in my life. I grew up being a Cal-State Fullerton fan, so I wanted the college experience, the D1 lifestyle,” said Persinger about choosing to join the Titans.
At Cal-State, Persinger pursued a business management major, a degree that he is still working on. His only season on the team was the perfect year to join Coach Vanderhook’s squad, the team that earned a trip to Omaha for the College World Series.
Persinger’s trip to Omaha remains the pinnacle of his baseball experience.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” he said. “The only word I can use to describe it is electric. It was awesome.”
The Cal-State team won a regional berth, then earned a victory in the super regional to get to Omaha. The Titans lost a close first game to Oregon State, and two days later, were knocked out of the College World Series in a 6-4 defeat at the hands of Florida State.
The 2017 Titans finished the season ranked number seven in the nation, and Persinger would be one of seven teammates selected in that summer’s amateur draft. The Indians would call his name in the 18th round, pick number 552 overall.
After the packed house in Omaha, the 5’11”, 180 lb. second baseman would sign with Cleveland, ending his college eligibility and moving to parks where small weekday crowds and long bus trips were the norm.
In his first season, Persinger would take the field in 22 games for the Rookie-level Mahoning Valley Scrappers of the New York-Penn League. The team would win the league’s Pinckney Division, going on to lose both semi-final round playoff games to the Vermont Lake Monsters, an Oakland A’s farm club.
Well prepared for the professional game, Persinger spent the summer of 2016 with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox of the prestigious Cape Cod League. A summer college league using wood bats, games are played nearly every day, rather than the more sporadic college schedules where teams play mainly Friday through Sunday.
“It’s the closest thing you can get to the professional lifestyle,” said Persinger about his summer with the Red Sox. “You had to nail down a routine, playing every day.”
It also allows for networking among players who may only have known each other in passing while in college, but now they can develop friendships and more professional connections. It helps the players avoid feeling alone. For Persinger, who played on three different squads in three years following high school, the development of comradery and friendship was clearly important.
Now in his second year in the Cleveland farm system, he is learning to develop his tools and make the most of his talent.
Named the utility player on the 2017 Big West Conference All-Conference team, he is prepared to do whatever it takes to be successful. Going to the College World Series was more significant to him than the All-Conference award. Looking at recent Big West All-Conference players suggests that he is in good company. Fellow All-Conference awardees include Cal-State Fullerton teammates Connor Seabold, a 3rd round pick of the Phillies in 2017, and Brett Conine who is ranked very highly for the upcoming 2018 Rule IV draft. In 2016, former Lynchburg pitcher Shane Bieber, now Cleveland’s #5 prospect, made the All-Conference team.
Awards aside, Persinger is doing everything he can to make every game, inning, and at-bat count, at the plate or in the field. His grind-it-out mentality is what makes him successful. Regarding his focus, Persinger shared it was important “to not take one pitch off, because that is the one that you miss by one step.”
Not a member of the opening day roster for the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats, his first game illustrates this mindset. He joined the Hillcats roster on April 17 and started that night’s game against the Frederick Keys. Persinger would score the first run while going 2-for-4 at the plate, with the Hillcats victorious 4-1.
In 27 games with Lynchburg, Persinger has hit .278 with a .377 OBP and a .733 OPS. He has eight RBI, and his 13 runs scored ranked him fifth on the team.
“My hitting approach is to compete and hit the ball hard,” says Persinger. “Don’t take anything for granted. Just have an approach up there for each pitcher, have a plan.”
With of the information available to professional players these days, this is not as difficult as it might sound. The challenge is to filter all of the available information and select what is most useful for the player, both in the field and at bat.
“In college, you have a broad idea what each pitcher is throwing, but there’s definitely more scouting reports, so you know exactly what each pitcher is throwing now,” says Persinger.
Like the cliché line from the movie Bull Durham, you take it one day at a time. Baseball is a game where failure figures prominently. Learning to handle that and come back clear and focused next time is critical to the development of any player.
“You have to be mentally strong,” said Persinger. “Hitting’s contagious. That’s what happened after we almost got no-hit. The next game our bats caught fire and we’ve had it ever since.”
On May 8, the Hillcats could only muster a single hit on the road against Frederick. They would win nine of their next eleven games, posting double-digit scores in four of those wins. This would keep the team in contention for the first half Northern Division title in the Carolina League.
On May 26, following the first four games of a road trip to Myrtle Beach and Buies Creek, Persinger was sent down to the Low-A Lake County Captains, where he had played five games early in the season. The trip there was a short one, as he returned to the Hillcats roster on May 29, when Gavin Collins was placed on the DL.
“He reminds me of Pete Rose, every single day he goes all out,” said Hillcats manager Rougie Odor. “I’m glad to have him back.”
Fellow infielder Jorma Rodriguez moved down from AA Akron to Lynchburg to initially displace Persinger. With the injury to Collins, Persinger gets another opportunity to continue to demonstrate his skill and work ethic. At least he got to make the trip to South Carolina and enjoy his second love, the beach.
“Just relax, enjoy the sun, sand, and surf,” said the Southern California native about his preferred relaxation habitat.
He played in three of Lynchburg’s four games in Myrtle Beach, before his brief trip to Ohio and back. With dedication and hard work, Persinger will continue to grind it out for the Lynchburg team.
“Just do what you do every day, stick to your routines and don’t slow up or slack off,” he said.
This attitude and work ethic will serve him well in his efforts to build his career.