On Nov. 13, I saw a post on Twitter about a trade between the Milwaukee Brewers and Tampa Bay Rays that caught my attention. Rays infielder Mike Brosseau was traded to Milwaukee for Brewers’ right-handed pitcher Evan Reifert.
Reifert is a 2017 Wilton High School graduate who has been pursuing his dream of playing major league baseball ever since. His path has taken him all over the country, but last season he made his major league debut, pitching in 37 games for Low-A Carolina and High-A Wisconsin for the Brewers.
He went 3-3 on the mound with eight saves and a 2.10 ERA. When he made his way to the High-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, he eventually cemented himself into a bit of a closer role, serving as a relief pitcher who often came in to try and complete late-inning leads.
Reifert got better as the season progressed, having a 0.61 ERA in 29.1 innings pitched with 51 strikeouts in a one-month span from July 17 through the last week in August.
The great thing about playing in the Brewers organization, and eventually ending up on the Timber Rattlers, is that Reifert began playing in ballparks close to home.
He played in Cedar Rapids when the Timber Rattlers would visit the Kernels, and played closest to home at Modern Woodmen Park in Davenport, home to the Quad Cities River Bandits.
I caught up with Reifert in August, when he made his last road trip to Davenport with the Timber Rattlers, as they played a stretch of games against the River Bandits.
We shared some texts that week, and he alerted me of days where he “may pitch.” I attended on a Thursday night, and unfortunately Wisconsin never got the lead in the late innings, otherwise Reifert thought his number might get called.
I did get a chance to talk with his mom and sister, who attended the game that night. I was able to pick them out in the crowd and decided to say “hello.” After the game, I made my way down to the bullpen and had a nice chat with Reifert who, now 22, was just as I remembered him.
He’s about as naturally gifted of an athlete as you’ll find — tall, lean and strong, with a great combination of speed and coordination. Like most guys trying to make it to “the show,” he’s moved around a lot while chasing the dream.
Reifert was actually drafted more than once, but began his career at North Iowa Area Community College, where he pitched for two years. He then signed with the University of North Carolina, and spent a brief time there before going to Division II Central Missouri, where he pitched during his junior season.
Of course there was the COVID-19 pandemic to contend with as well, but he eventually signed a contract with the Brewers in the summer of 2020. He went to their fall instructional camp, which he said went well. “They liked my pitching arsenal,” Reifert said. He began this past season pitching for the Carolina Mudcats in Zebulon, North Carolina, and was there just three weeks before getting the call to travel to Appleton, Wisconsin to join the Timber Rattlers.
“Anything can happen in pro ball. If you’re throwing well, there are moves at every level,” Reifert said.
He bounced back and forth between starting and relieving in college, but settled into a relief-pitching role with the Brewers. He said he enjoys coming out of the bullpen with an arsenal that now includes a 4-seam fastball and a slider. He’s been clocked at 97 mph, and consistently throws his fastball 94-96 mph.
The daily grind involves playing six days per week and busing from city to city. In his free time, he is reading more while studying the mental aspects of the game. Having a “perfectionist mentality” when he was in high school, he’s constantly working on that part of his game as he grows and evolves at the professional level. “I’m not trying to over think, and just go out there and throw my best stuff. I’m a natural competitor and have always had high expectations. I had the tools but the mental game is huge,” Reifert said.
Prior to the trade to the Rays, a perennial power in the MLB’s American League East, he lived this summer with his bullpen coach in Appleton. I haven’t gotten to speak to Evan since the trade, but I, along with several others from home, will be watching as he continues to chase his dream.
“You never know when you’re going to move. I’m blessed to be here, enjoying the process. It’s always been my dream to play professional baseball since I was young,” said Reifert. “To be setting in those (Modern Woodmen Park) stands as a kid with my grandpa, to now playing on this field is special.”