But Jeremy never grew too discouraged. After every game, his dad would call. He’d ask how the game went, offer encouragement and tell Jeremy he’d help by catching for him next time he was home.
“Good game, bad game, he would always say he was proud,” Jeremy said. “Tell me to keep my head up, come back tomorrow and have a better day. Always motivating.”
Jeremy came back strong after his injuries, but the damage seemingly had been done.
Jeremy was off the organization’s radar. The years were passing. He was still toiling in A league and rookie ball.
After his dad’s diagnosis, Jeremy and his older brothers, Brandon and Craig, paid their father’s medical bills. They were dedicated to making sure he had every opportunity to get better.
Travis went to a few of Jeremy’s minor league games, surprising his son on one occassion by waving from the stands before Jeremy took the mound.
“I was throwing about as hard as I ever had,” Jeremy said. “I just wanted to make him smile.”
Jeremy surprised his dad by having him throw out the first pitch at a game. He met his dad at the mound, gave him a huge bear hug and then went behind the plate to take the throw.
It would be the last game of Jeremy’s that Travis would see. Travis McBryde died on November 28, 2011, two days past his 54th birthday.
“After that, everything just felt off,” Jeremy said. “I struggled playing. I couldn’t eat or sleep. It just felt like something was missing.”
Jeremy nearly hung it up after his dad’s death. He couldn’t imagine not seeing him in the stands, or hearing his comforting words after a bad game.
He also was frustrated with his situation in the minors, a grueling position within the Padres’ organization that was taking him away from his family more and more and showing no signs of progress. He was starting to question his love for the game.
“I started feeling angry,” he said. “Like I should have worked harder while I was younger so that he could have seen me make it.
“It was just rough looking into the stands and not seeing the guy that put his whole heart and soul into molding you.”
Jeremy became a minor league free agent after the 2013 season. The River Cats gave him a tryout and he impressed enough to earn a roster spot. He slid into the closer role and this season began racking up the stats, striking out 30 in 29 innings and allowing only one baserunner per inning.
“It’s a dream that just can’t go away,” he said. “Seeing how close I am, the more and more it feels like it could come true.”
Shanna thinks Jeremy is making good on all the work Travis put into him.
“He felt down and out but he realized it would be a testament to his dad to keep going,” she said. “Just keep working hard for his dad.”
Jeremy said he’s not sure how he’ll react if he gets the call to the majors. He’ll be happy of course. He’ll celebrate with his family, call all his relatives and friends and post about it on Facebook. But there will be that moment when he’ll think of his dad.
“Bittersweet,” he said. “He was the one pushing me and being there every step of the way so I know he’d have a smile on his face. This dream is kinda what keeps me going, but that day without him ... I can’t even imagine.”
Travis was already proud of Jeremy, Shanna said, and his delight in his son had nothing to do with baseball.
“He loved the man he was off the field,” she said. “Everything on the field is just a bonus.”
McBryde’s excited to be able to tell his twins about their grandpa when they get older. To show them hard work and dedication and to teach them that you have to work for everything you are given.
“I’m still chasing this dream that I have,” he said. “But I’ve really got everything I could ever want. The support of my family and friends and lessons to teach my kids ... as they get older.”
Dad is gone, but his hard work is still in play.