(Posted Jan. 26, 2021)
By Josephine Birdsell, Staff Writer
In late October, Caleb Ferguson, like many people across the country, sat eagerly on his couch, watching the Major League Baseball World Series. But there was more at stake for Ferguson than for most.
Ferguson played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, pitching 21 games during the 2020 season before he tore a ligament in his elbow in September and needed surgery. His recovery took him off the field for the remainder of the season.
But when his team won the World Series, he excitedly called using Facetime to congratulate his friends and teammates.
“I threw in a lot of games and was a big part of it, so that definitely made it easier not being there,” he said.
Now, West Jefferson is honoring Ferguson for his role in the Dodgers’ World Series win.
The village hung three signs reading “Home of Caleb Ferguson”: one at the east entrances to town, one at the west entrance, and one at West Jefferson High School. The village hasn’t hung signs honoring a village resident since the high school’s football team won the state championship in 1982.
“It’s a pretty cool honor to be recognized,” Ferguson said.
The village is proud to recognize a community member for a great achievement, said Mayor Ray Martin.
“Everybody in (West Jefferson) knows (Ferguson), and I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like him,” Martin said.
Ferguson was born and raised in the village. He played lots of sports growing up, including football, basketball and baseball, but he wasn’t always great at baseball, he said.
In middle school, Ferguson played baseball on the “B team.” He wasn’t good enough to qualify for the A team, he said. Hoping to get better, he took a pitching lesson the summer before his freshman year at West Jefferson High School. T.J. Hill, the pitching coach, told Ferguson that if he focused on baseball, he would get drafted onto a professional team.
So, Ferguson quit the other sports to focus on baseball. He played with his high school team during the school year and with a number of other teams over the summers, including Ohio Elite and Ohio Warhawks. And sure enough, Hill was right.
The Dodgers scouted Ferguson when he was in high school. When he graduated in 2014, he started his professional career. At 17 years old, he moved far from his friends and family to the Dodgers’ clubhouse in Arizona, shared with players from all over the country, he said.
“It was very eye-opening. Coming from a village with 4,000 people in it (at the time)… moving and semi-living a college lifestyle. But some would say it was even harder than a college lifestyle,” he said.
Ferguson spent the next several years traveling from city to city, playing for all of the Dodgers’ teams. He played in Arizona, Utah, Oklahoma, Michigan and California. Then, he started on the LA team.
“I’m always on the go. I pretty much know how to live life out of a suitcase,” he said. “It’s a blast.”
This past season was different from all previous seasons. It started off great in spring training, Ferguson said. But then “the world shut down” when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, so Ferguson moved home, kept preparing for the season and waited to see what would happen. In July, the season restarted. But before long, Ferguson’s injury took him back to Ohio for a bittersweet World Series victory.
Ferguson hopes to fully recover from his injury in time to return to the Dodgers for the 2022 baseball season. In the meantime, he and his fiancee are living in Hilliard where they recently bought a house. He often returns to West Jefferson to visit his parents and the town.
“I’m proud to be from West Jeff,” he said.