Jordan Dean knows what it's like to chase a big league dream. After being drafted in the 15th round by the Detroit Tigers in 2012, the Michigan-native spent eight seasons playing pro baseball. But after this past season with the Chicago Dogs, Dean decided he'd had enough. It was time to move on.
"I was fortunate enough to have a full season last year and I was able to retire and be done, on a good note," Dean said. "I was healthy the whole year and had a good year."
After nearly a decade of playing baseball, the 29-year-old is now teaching it. He's a co-owner of Athletes HQ in Elgin, where players of different ages come to work on their game.
"The atmosphere is really, really unique in the sense that at any time, you could see a former big leaguer walk in, or you could see us working with a kid who’s just starting out in Little League," said Dean.
One of those former big leaguers is Casey Crosby. The native of Elburn, a city about an hour west of Chicago, made three appearances as a pitcher for the Tigers in 2012. This year, he expected to play in the Dodgers' minor league system, but the pandemic altered those plans. Just this week, the 2020 minor league season was officially canceled.
"I think a lot of guys are angry about that," said Crosby. "You can tell me that I stink. Tell me that I’m not good enough to play. But it’s a hard pill to swallow when it’s not our fault that this happened to us."
Making it an even harder pill to swallow for Crosby and other minor leaguers? Many aren't being paid the money they counted on making. The Dodgers stopped paying Crosby at the end of June.
"It’s a big financial hurt," said the left hander. "Basically, if you have savings, you live off that, and if you don’t have savings, you pretty much have to find work right after they sent us home."
After years paid modestly in minor and independent leagues, Dean felt terrible for his baseball brethren. In late May, he tweeted that any pro baseball player in the area was welcome to use Athletes HQ, and they didn't have to pay him a penny to do it.
"These kids and these guys are expected to stay ready at any time, and we wanted to do whatever we could to give them the ability to do that without worrying about a gym membership or a facility fee," said Dean.
Since sending the tweet, Dean says around a dozen players have taken him up on his offer. Crosby is one of them, and he's incredibly thankful for Dean's generosity.
"It means everything," said the 31-year-old. "[Dean] knows what it’s like, so he was able to do this for us. It was incredibly generous of him."
"Being able to help them out – like I said, if I was in their situation, I would have loved to have that opportunity if something like the pandemic happened and things just got turned upside down," added Dean.