Brandon native Reed Eastley learned something during his three-year sojourn in professional baseball’s minor leagues: He’s kind of partial to warm weather.
With that in mind, the 28-year-old Neelin grad and his wife Jamie set up shop in Charlotte, N.C., after he concluded his baseball career in 2007.
“She had moved down here after college while I was still playing,” said Eastley, who now spends his days as a business analyst for LPL Financial and his evenings as a youth baseball coach. “I spent some time here (in Charlotte) when I could. We loved the weather and we had some friends, actually a couple of people I played with ended up moving down here after they were done playing, so it just worked out really well for us.”
A multi-sport star at Neelin — he was Manitoba’s male high school athlete of the year in 2001 —Eastley went on to star at NCAA Division I Niagara University and was chosen by the Seattle Mariners in the 13th round of the 2005 Major League Baseball Draft.
Eastley played three seasons in the Mariners’ system, advancing as far as high-A ball and posting a .285 batting average with 18 homers, 139 runs batted in and a very strong .384 on-base percentage in 266 career games.
The infielder also left the pro game with memories that will last a lifetime.
“The one year I played in California (with the Inland Empire 66ers of the high-A California League) where we won the league, I’ve got a lot of close friends that played on that team and we’ve kinda kept in touch and that was a really good experience to win the entire league,” Eastley said. “And then getting to play for Team Canada in the Olympic qualifier in Cuba (in 2007) was something I’ll never forget. And when I played winter ball in Hawaii I got to play with some really good players that you see on TV all the time now, which is always cool when I watch highlights or watch Sportscenter or whatever it is, there’s quite often a guy or two that I played with or crossed paths with along the way.”
Playing alongside future major leaguers like Dexter Fowler of the Colorado Rockies and Ian Desmond of the Washington Nationals, Eastley began to get a pretty good idea of which prospects might make it to ‘The Show.’
In spring training in 2008, he came to the conclusion that he wasn’t one of those players and decided to move on with his life. The middle of a financial crisis wasn’t exactly prime time for job hunting for Eastley, who was a double major in finance and math at NU, but he landed a gig with the American arm of a Canadian-headquartered manufacturing company before joining LPL two years ago.
He also took up coaching with the Charlotte Stealth baseball program, run by Mike Gardiner, a Canadian former major-league pitcher who praised Eastley for his work guiding one of the top 14-and-under teams in the Southeastern United States. Beyond the competitive aspect of the program, Eastley is having a blast passing on tips to young players the way he was groomed by his former Brandon Marlins mentors.
“I just got the opportunity to work with fantastic people in the Mariners organization where I just learned a ton and I think back to when I was 12, 13, 14 years old and how much I looked up to guys like Nate (Andrews) and Scott (Hlady),” Eastley said. “It’s cool to kind of be in their shoes now.”
Eastley looks back so fondly on his minor ball days in Brandon that the only regret he has is that he isn’t close enough to offer more help to the next generation of players hoping to follow in his footsteps back home.
“We had, especially when I was growing up and I think it’s continued on now, a great kind of system where you’re learning the right thing and even though you’re in Brandon, Manitoba where maybe you’re only playing two months out of the year, there’s a lot of guys that are committed to teaching the game the right way and teaching the fundamentals,” he said. “When you look at my group that came through, there was a lot of guys that had success going down south and playing baseball. That’s always something you hope for and something you watch out for.
“I talk to Nate every once in a while or talk to my college coach who does recruiting down through Manitoba and always ask him if there’s anyone from Brandon and if there’s anything I can do, if there’s anyone I can talk to for him. One thing that I always kind of wish is that I was able to be around to give back a little bit more, but I do what I can from afar.”
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 30, 2012