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Q&A: Devon Travis on going back to school, Jordan Travis, MLB season

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Devon Travis had every intent through the offseason of working his way back on the baseball field when games returned in 2020.

A Florida State second baseman from 2010-12, Travis is a free agent after playing four MLB seasons with Toronto from 2015-18. He has done everything he can, and Travis said his agent has fielded calls from MLB teams about playing this fall, but he admits his knee just won’t let him return to baseball until 2021.

Travis has tried to remain positive and focus his attention elsewhere. He has spent time back home in West Palm Beach with family, at times working out this offseason with his younger brother, FSU quarterback Jordan Travis. And Devon is going back to school, taking three classes online this summer through FSU and putting him in position to wrap up his degree next year.

The Osceola caught up with Travis to discuss his classes, his plans to play in 2021, being a big brother and pushing Jordan to reach his potential. He also previews what a 60-game MLB season looks like from his perspective.

What’s your major? How are classes going this summer?

Travis: “I’m a business and marketing major. I’m in three classes this summer. I took one in the beginning, one in the whole 12 weeks and one in the last six weeks. It has been fun. I definitely enjoy learning now more than I ever did. I actually look back at my school career and I always got good grades but I always got good grades because I was afraid to bring home bad grades to my parents. I never really took the time to sit down and learn. I take the time to not just learn it and spit it out just to get good grades on my test but now I try to learn to just become smarter. I’ve actually really enjoyed all of my classes. I have a greater appreciation for my professors. They always talk about how they miss being in school and they miss their students (teaching remotely). When I was younger I wouldn’t really have taken to – these professors really care about their students and their futures. I had a class with Dr. Ferguson. It was product development innovation. I had never really taken part of anything when it comes to creating a business when it comes to creating a product. He would speak a lot on businesses. He was a sports fan and he would find a way to tie sports into his class. He’s a big fan of the stock market so he would find ways to teach students in small ways about the stock market. I thought it was really cool.”

You want to play in MLB in 2021 but has the pursuit of a degree opened your eyes to a career path after baseball?

Travis: “I’ve always wanted to get my degree. I planned to do that at 38 or 40 years old after a 20-year career. However, it doesn’t always play out the way that we hope. I always have wanted to get my degree. I’m excited about getting my degree. It’s something I can’t wait to post on my wall and say I have a degree from a university that has given me so much. I may have an interest in coaching college baseball one day and you have to have a degree for that. Hopefully this business marketing major would help me be a college baseball coach one day. That’s how I’m seeing it. This is a weird time for me. This is my first time since I was 5 years old that I haven’t played baseball. It’s been a big adjustment for me and it’s something I’m still adjusting to. However, I don’t have time to sit around and feel sorry for myself. I’m very luck and blessed about everything God has given me up to this point in the game of baseball. It would be all on me if I did not use this time to go back and get the degree.

How is your knee and do you feel like some of those opportunities with MLB teams will be available to you in 2021?

Travis: “I definitely need more time. The cool part was in this last month I have had my agent call me about teams calling him for me to potentially sign in this shortened season. Playing 60 games is easy for me; playing 160-plus was always the hard part. Man, I could play 60 games in my sleep. I’m still not to a point where I can play. The cool part is there is still interest out there. And that makes me smile. I have more work to do. I’ve come a long way but not quite there yet. I want to believe I’ve proven when I’m healthy what I’m capable of. I don’t know the answer. That’s something we’ll find out in due time, hopefully when my knee does get healthy. I try to never think about things I can’t control. I just try to leave it at that. I am trying to simplify my focus. Over this past year I’ve had so many thoughts in my head about baseball leaving my life. This isn’t something I imagined, being at 29 years old. Especially due to injuries. This game ends for everybody. For some, injuries are the reason for that. I always hoped that I could play the game long enough until, A, I wasn’t good enough to do it anymore, or B, it wasn’t any fun. The game ending because of injuries because it is something that is out of my control, that’s the part that burns me the most. When I am healthy, I do believe I can contribute and make teams better. My body not working with me has been something I have fought really since my professional career started. I try to be at peace with it, focus on the things I can control. Hopefully when I do get healthy there will be a team that gives me a chance.

How did you enjoy the chance to work out with Jordan for a few months before he returned to the FSU campus?

Travis: “It was a very unique time. When you’re caught up in the life of an athlete, your focus is so narrow that you lose sight of so many things that are going on around you. What I mean by that is I missed Jordan and my little sister Jada, who is about to be a freshman at FSU, I missed their entire childhood for the last 10 years, 11 years of my life. Jordan was 9 and Jada was 7. I really missed their whole upbringing. I was only ever home for three months out of the year, four months out of the year at most. … I try to take the time to really enjoy my time with my family and enjoy my time with my brother. Me being home at this time is something I never had. I did try to push Jordan to work out with me and that was something that was cool for me.  I watched Jordan over the last year of being home and being able to see him more often. I’m seeing what it’s like to watch your younger sibling turn into a kid who is in the early stages of a mature young man. Over these last six months, just from the sense of work ethic, I have seen that change in Jordan, which makes me the most proud. Jordan has always been a talented kid, he was the biggest kid on his team growing up. He was always the fastest, had the most God-given gifted ability. He never had to work his ass off to boost his ability and I think he realizes now being at Florida State that he is surrounded by a group of guys who are all just like him. Every single guy at Florida State was the best player on their team growing up and was the most gifted kid in their school and on the travel football team. Especially with getting a taste of last year, what it’s like to get on the field that he dreamt of so bad, that little bit of taste mixed in with him opening his eyes and saying, ‘I got to go to work. I’m good and I’m talented and I have everything that you could really want as an athlete but it takes more.’ I think he’s finally coming into that feeling, which is really cool for me to see. All I can hope for out of my little brother is when he looks back, which I hope is a 15-year NFL career however I do realize those dreams do not come to fruition, I just want him to look back and say, ‘I busted my ass and I left everything that I could out on the field in my gym and in my mental work.’ He’s starting to enter that phase. And it’s pretty cool to see.

Jordan Travis made his FSU debut with two touchdown runs at BC. (photo by Jeff Romance)

Are you advising Jordan in similar fashion to how you would talk to yourself if you were 10 years younger?

Travis: “Jordan seeing me from afar, I would always do my best to speak to my brother almost every day but it’s different. When I left home my brother was 9 years old and he looks up to his older brother in a way that he has only seen me as Devon Travis the athlete. I’m sad I missed out on the brother part. I would have loved to be here every single day and support him and push him. My dad did an amazing job and my mom did an amazing job. But there’s no love like your brother’s love. That tough love. ‘You want to battle? Let’s see what you got.’ Jordan has always been so gifted and I was good at baseball. I was a pretty good college baseball player but I was never going to be a first-round guy. I was never going to be the guy that scouts show up to the field and were going to show up and drool over. Jordan has the ability, in my opinion and I try to be non-biased even though he is my brother, I believe he truly has a great gift. He has the ability to have people want to show up to Doak Campbell Stadium on a Saturday to see what Jordan Travis can do with the ball in his hands. I didn’t have that ability. Luckily for Jordan, he never had to work as hard as me. He’s 6-3, I’m 5-8. I had to stand on my chair sometimes and let the big guys know I might be small but I’m right here with you. Jordan has always been able to get the ball in his hands, he’s ice cold on the sidelines at Boston College and have no idea he’s going in the game and he breaks off a 66-yard run. I didn’t have that ability. I had to stretch, I had to get ready, I had to make sure my mind was prepared to go to battle every day. I think it’s cool that he’s finally starting to learn that God-given ability is never going to take you where you want to be. The cliché statement that hard work beats talent every single time, I think he’s starting to realize that he is gifted but so is everybody else around him. If you want to get to the next level, not just of football but the next level of yourself and getting the most out of yourself, you’re going to have to start tapping into that part of your work ethic and your mental preparation and your mental strength. I’m just proud that he is truly starting to get a feeling about him that excites me. More than anything I just want my brother to get everything out of what he’s been given.

Let’s finish with a few MLB questions. The National League is going to use the designated hitter in all 60 games in 2020, which could make the game more fun to watch and we should see an increase in the number of runs scored per game. What do you think of that and will the NL teams be able to adapt their rosters?

Travis: “One interesting dynamic is the managers. If I was a manager in the big leagues, I would much rather be an AL manager than an NL manager. NL managers are constantly having to think ahead. ‘Do I use the double switch? Do I grab this guy off the bench?’ It’s a lot more straightforward as an American League manager. You can play your matchup with your DH, you can figure out which guys you want to plug in, you can give guys kind of a day off where they are only DH-ing and they aren’t in the field. There’s so many advantages to the DH in the sense of the manager’s perspective. All major league teams and organizations, even the guys that don’t put up the numbers to excite people, every single major league baseball player is crazy talented. This opens up the door for a lot of guys that may have struggled to play a great defensive position but can flat-out hit. I think of players that I have seen, coming up in the system, they can hit like crazy but the word out on him is, ‘He can hit but he’s got nowhere to play.’ But if he was in the AL he has somewhere to play – you can stick him in the DH role. It will be more exciting. There’s more runs scored in the AL than the NL. And that’s what fans want to see. Fans don’t want to go to games to see a pitcher take three strikes and walk back to the dugout. They want action. It will be interesting to see NL pitchers face one extra hitter throughout a lineup. Most NL pitchers will tell you they take a little bit of a deep breath when they see the pitcher coming up. I think it will be good for baseball.”

It’s a 60-game sprint and not a 162-game marathon. Does it help teams that have a deeper pool of starters or bullpen?

Travis: “You think of a 60-game season and you think about how every game is truly going to matter. We’re going to see a form of baseball with no fans. We’re going to see a form of baseball that’s pure. We’re going to see a group of guys that understand that, ‘Hey, there’s a great chance we finish the season 38-22 and there’s a great chance all of these teams could be within five games of each other with 10 games left.’ You’re going to see a very pure version of baseball. You’re going to see a group of grown men who are going to play the game and they’re going to feel like they are 12 years old again. It’s just going to be a really cool environment. I can’t wait to watch it. I think it’s going to be really, really cool.”