Jeff Holm embraces the “versatile” label the parent Detroit Tigers gave him after drafting the St. Charles North and Michigan State product in 2011.
He hopes it resonates somewhere other than the Class-A Midwest League and the Advanced-A Florida State League sometime soon.
Holm will bring his slash lines – left field, right field, first base, designated hitter – to Fifth Third Bank Ballpark next weekend when West Michigan visits the Class-A Cougars for three games. He did the same thing in 2012, when he wasn’t exactly holding out for another homecoming.
“It’s a tough dream, but, you know, it’s my dream. So I’m probably going to play until they tell me I can’t anymore,” Holm said. “Don’t want to leave with any regrets, you know. Baseball is pretty much all I’ve ever known. Getting ready for a game, it still gives me butterflies, so it’s still exciting for me.”
A starter for the Eastern Division at the 2013 Midwest League All-Star game, Holm opened this season with Advanced-A Lakeland.
In 34 games, he batted .215 with 28 hits and 26 strikeouts in 130 at-bats. He rejoined the Whitecaps in May, and was hitting .243 with four home runs and 22 RBIs in 39 games entering Thursday.
West Michigan manager Andrew Graham, who was Holm’s first professional manager with Short-A Connecticut in 2011, knows his pupil’s pain. The Australian-born catcher, 32, never hit above .286 at either level during five seasons as a Tigers farmhand in the 2000s.
“Over the years, I know that, yeah, Jeff was struggling a little bit in the Florida State League. He was in the low .200s,” Graham said.
“We needed a bit of a leader down here for some young guys and a boost, so we sent him down here. … He’s doing well for us and there’s no reason why if he continues it, Detroit might make a decision to move guys. But at this stage, you know, he’s part of this team, and I welcome him here.”
While acknowledging Holm’s struggles, Detroit officials also thought his experience would help jolt the Whitecaps’ clubhouse. West Michigan edged South Bend by one-half game for the first-half Eastern Division title, as Holm hit .274 in 16 games before the All-Star break.
“It is what it is. They told me the Whitecaps needed an extra bat and they need to make the playoffs and I did what I could, and now we are in the playoffs,” Holm said. “And now we’re just trying to win the whole thing. And at the end of the day, I’ve still got a jersey on, so got to be happy about that.”
A first baseman for much of his prep and college career, Holm got acclimated to shifting early as a pro after the Tigers drafted Vanderbilt first baseman Aaron Westlake in the third round in 2011, nine rounds ahead of Holm.
He hopes for a better outcome than during his most recent homecoming. Starting one game each at first base and left field in July 2012, Holm went 1 for 8 with two RBIs as the Cougars won two of three.
Holm still stayed at the team hotel then, but snuck home for a couple of dinners. These days, his parents, John and Janine, are selling the family home after retiring and relocating to Florida.
An outfielder, John Holm played with Quad Cities, then a California Angels affiliate, in 1973. Jeff Holm already has surpassed his dad’s career, but he still feels urgency in trying to point his own on an upwardly mobile path.
• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @kevindruley.