Greg Peters column: The 'feyer' of desire
River Falls' native and current New York Yankee relief pitcher, J.P. Feyereisen, and Minnesota Vikings' All-Pro wide receiver Adam Thielen have more in common than growing up in small towns. They've also been workout warriors together at ETS in Oakdale in recent years.
"When I was in double A, I didn't have to report until March 1," said Feyereisen, "and the Vikings' season was over by then, so Adam would work out with me. He's a great guy and a hard worker."
"Ryan (Englebert, owner of ETS) used to play running back at Stout," said Feyereisen, "and his wife, Heidi, is from River Falls, so that's the connection."
Thielen and Feyereisen won't be workout partners this winter and that's a good thing for both of them. Thielen and the Vikings will be playing in the NFC Championship game this weekend and Feyereisen will be reporting for spring training on Feb. 1 with the New York Yankees.
This winter, Feyereisen and fellow River Falls' pro-baseball product, Marty Herum (currently in the Arizona Diamondbacks' organization), have been up at River Falls High School every day at 6:30 a.m. throwing off the mound in the gym.
"What separates J.P. from others," says River Falls High School Head Baseball Coach Ryan Bishop, "is his relentless drive to compete. There just aren't many people that can rival his competitive drive and work ethic."
"Coach Bishop has been amazing throughout my baseball career," said Feyereisen, "he does anything to help us out; not just me but all his former players. He has helped me so much growing emotionally and mentally."
"Every coach loves to help a kid work on channeling his fire," said Bishop, "rather than trying to light his fire."
One thing is certain, the fire of desire inside J.P. Feyereisen is lit and it can't be doused with a fire hose. In fact, the fire references were quick to come shortly after J.P. arrived at double A Trenton Thunder in 2016. The Trentonian, a newspaper in Trenton, NJ, nicknamed J.P. "The Fire Hydrant" because "all he does is put out flames." This just in: a spelling correction courtesy of the River Falls Journal will be "The Feyer Hydrant."
Feyereisen was throwing in the low 90's when he was named the number one baseball prospect in Division III entering his junior season at UW-Stevens Point in 2014 and was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 16th round.
While training over the past few years he began throwing 2-pound and 4-pound baseballs to improve his arm strength. He consistently throws in the mid 90's now and has reached 100 mph on the radar gun, according to Baseball America.
"I am so lucky to have been raised by the people I was raised by," said Feyereisen, "My dad (Randy) never stops going in anything he does. I think that's rubbed off on how I train for sure."
"He (J.P.) has an amazing family and a great community behind him," said Bishop, "he knows his roots will always be his strongest support system. I think it's pretty cool that J.P. and Marty want to work out in their old high school gym in the off-season. They continue to stay grounded with those small town values and work ethic."
"Grandpa (John) loves mowing the grass and taking care of the field (1st National Bank Field of River Falls) and so does my dad," said Feyereisen, "those guys are up there four or five days a week during the summer."
From roots in River Falls to a blossoming career in the Big Apple, the first thing the 6'2" 215-pound Feyereisen said he noticed when he was sitting inside the Yankee locker room in spring training last year was the size of the players.
"Matt Holiday walked in and he's a pretty big guy," said Feyereisen, "Then CC (Sabathia) and Chris Carter walked in and they made Holliday look small. Then, The Judge walked in (6'7" 282-pound Aaron Judge) and he made EVERYBODY look little."
Feyereisen, in triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year, said he expects to be on a big league roster this year and when the time arrives, all the preparation and the people helping him along the way will definitely be remembered.
"My first step on a major league field is going to be a special one, but it's the same game," said Feyereisen, "the lights are brighter and there's more seats in the stadium, but it's the same game."