Tonight, MLB will announce the rookies of the year for each league and Detroit Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer is predicted to win in the AL (sorry Gary Sánchez) for his 3.06 ERA over 159 innings. But according to a charmingly puffy new profile out in the Detroit Free Press, the 23-year-old is likely spending the day digging ditches for sewer lines.
It’s not unusual for minor-league players, who make pennies compared to their big league counterparts, to work odd jobs in winter just to make ends meet. (For his first few years as a pro athlete in the Mets farm system, Fulmer, who signed for $937,500 in 2011, worked at golf courses in the offseason.) But despite a 2016 raise to the Major League minimum of $507,500, Fulmer is still supplementing his baseball player salary with part-time work for Cyrus Wright Plumbing of Yukon, Okla. for the second offseason in a row.
“I don’t cut him any slack,” Larry Wright, Fulmer’s boss and the uncle of one of his friends, told the Detroit Free Press. “He digs ditches and gets dirty and does whatever needs to be done.”
“Generally, it’s hard,” Wright said. “When he’s working with me, he’s usually digging in or working on jackhammers. It’s pretty physical work, but he’s a great worker. He always wants to know more, he wants to know what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and he never complains.”
The physicality of Fulmer’s humble hobby is probably giving the Detroit front office and his agent a mild heart attack right now, but Fulmer explained that it’s part of the appeal of plumbing. “It’s a different kind of workout,” he said. “Digging out of 6-foot ditches all the time and shoveling quite a bit. So, it’s a different type of workout, and it helps before I start working out in the off-season.”
There are several other “aw shucks”-worthy anecdotes about how one of baseball’s best young pitchers says “Yes ma’am” in a Southern drawl and doesn’t forget where he came from, if you’re into that sort of thing.