© 2024 Interlochen
CLASSICAL IPR | 88.7 FM Interlochen | 94.7 FM Traverse City | 88.5 FM Mackinaw City IPR NEWS | 91.5 FM Traverse City | 90.1 FM Harbor Springs/Petoskey | 89.7 FM Manistee/Ludington
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Big League dreams fading, but not broken

Jose Vargas enters his fifth and likely final season with the Traverse City Beach Bums
Traverse City Beach Bums
Jose Vargas enters his fifth and likely final season with the Traverse City Beach Bums

The Traverse City Beach Bums open their home season this Friday night. Playing his fifth season with the Bums this year, is veteran Jose Vargas.

Ever since he was young, he’s dreamed of playing in the Big Leagues. And at age 27, Vargas has given himself one more chance to turn his dream into a reality. 

An early start
Vargas remembers his dad teaching him to hit and throw the baseball when he was 4 years old. His father played professionally in Mexico, before moving to California. In high school, the father-son training sessions got more intense.

“I still give him a hard time about this- he would tie like a belt around me, and then make me run with like a tire or two behind me. And he just wanted me to get...bigger and stronger and run faster. But, I just felt like it was torture that he was doing that to me,” says Vargas, chuckling.

He endured all that training with the dream to play Major League Baseball.

In 2008, he came close.

That year, the Chicago White Sox drafted him in the 22nd round, and signed him for $40,000 dollars. 

“It was just an awesome experience, just being able to get drafted," he says. "Something that I’ll definitely never forget." 

Vargas spent three years in the lower levels of the minor leagues. In 2011 he had to move up to the next level, or he would likely be released. His spring training started well, including a Home Run in an opening scrimmage. But then Vargas was hit on the left hand with a pitch. It forced him out of action for 2 weeks.

The club let him go.

Vargas remembers sitting in the White Sox locker after he was released and questioning whether he wanted to continue to play or not.

"You feel like your dreams are getting taken away from you,” recalls Vargas.

The same day he was released, the Traverse City Beach Bums contacted him and offered him a contract for $1200 a month. He accepted.

Jose Vargas waits for a pitch to be delivered
Credit Traverse City Beach Bums
Jose Vargas waits for a pitch to be delivered

The Frontier League
The Traverse City Beach Bums are part of the Frontier League. It’s an independent baseball league, which means it’s not connected to any Major League teams. Players in the Frontier League hope to move into spots like the one Vargas was cut from. 

At 27 years old, Vargas is running short on time. He says he feels more pressure from people asking him what he’s going to do with his life. He told himself he needed one more opportunity to prove himself on the baseball diamond. If he didn’t sign with a Major League team, he’d call it quits.

That was last year.

“The first week was going really well for the team, and then I got hit," he says. It was his left hand. "It ended up breaking. They call it a boxer’s fracture. It was right under the pinkie knuckle. And I was out for two months in a cast."

Since he only played half a season, he’s back this year. Vargas says he wants one more full season.

Beach Bums Manager Dan Rohn, is looking forward to having a healthy Jose Vargas back in the lineup on a consistent basis. Rohn calls him a “stabilizing force.”

Jose Vargas rounds the bases after hitting a home run
Credit Traverse City Beach Bums
Jose Vargas rounds the bases after hitting a home run

“His numbers are just stupid in this league,” says Rohn. You know, he had 29 home runs two years ago. And last year he gets hit and breaks his wrist and he’s out for three months. So, I mean he didn’t get anything going last year. But you know, we’re looking forward to him bouncing back and just doing (his) thing. His leadership...on the field and off the field is what we’re looking for and he’s just a great kid.” 


Ready to move on
Vargas says whatever happens this year he’s thankful for the opportunity he’s had to pursue his dream.

“Last year I went into it as, you know, if something happens, if I get picked up, great. I’ll continue to play,” he recalls. "But if it doesn’t, then it’s just time to move on, and I’ve definitely been blessed to be able to play professional baseball for six plus years.” 

When it does come time for him to put his baseball dream to rest, Jose Vargas says he’s going to pursue a career as a personal trainer. 

He’s just hoping that decision comes later rather than sooner.  

Vargas and the Traverse City Beach Bums host the Windy City ThunderBolts, this Friday night for their home opener at Wuerfel Park. The game starts at 7:05pm.

Dan Wanschura is the Host and Executive Producer of Points North.