READING — Once considered the Phillies’ third baseman of the future, Cody Asche was still in the big leagues as recently as two years ago.

To show how difficult it is to make a living playing professional baseball, Asche began this season competing for the independent Sugar Land (Texas) Skeeters of the Atlantic League. He had been released by the Los Angeles Dodgers in spring training, and independent ball was his only option.

After a six-game stint in Sugar Land, he signed May 3 with the Boston Red Sox and was assigned to their double-A affiliate, the Portland Sea Dogs.

“I legitimately love baseball. I love everything there is about it,” Asche said over the weekend as the Sea Dogs played at one of his old stomping grounds, Reading. “The unfortunate thing is sometimes the game doesn’t love you back. That is the beauty and beast of it.”

Lately, he has experienced mostly the beast side of the sport.

Asche wasn’t offered arbitration after the 2016 season with the Phillies, making him a free agent. In 2017, he appeared in 19 games for the Chicago White Sox and batted .105, but played most of the season for their triple-A team in Charlotte. Last year, he split the season playing for the triple-A teams of the New York Yankees in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and the New York Mets in Las Vegas.

Asche, who batted .240 with 31 home runs in 371 career games with the Phillies from 2013-16, blames nobody for his current status but himself. A left-handed batter, his average slipped from .252 in 2014 to .245, then .213.

“I wish I had a somber story for you where I had a bad injury or bad luck or had a real excuse, but that isn’t the case,” he said.

“I just didn’t hold up my end of the bargain. I wasn’t a good enough everyday player for [the Phillies] to continue to invest in me, and that is just the way it goes,” Asche said.

Former Phillie Cody Asche, now with the Portland Sea Dogs.
Marc Narducci
Former Phillie Cody Asche, now with the Portland Sea Dogs.

With the Phillies, he played third base and left field. At Portland, he is mainly playing in the outfield.

Even though Asche won’t turn 29 until June 30, he is old in minor-league years.

Still, he didn’t want his career to end — thus, the brief stay in independent baseball and his return to double A, a level at which he had last appeared in 2012 with Reading.

“I decided to swallow my pride,” said Asche, who began the week 3-for-29 (.103) for the Sea Dogs. “When you are 25 and playing every day in the big leagues, you never envision a scenario where you find yourself in independent ball, but I did. I went there, sucked it up for a couple of weeks, and I am here now.”

Asche, a fourth-round draft choice in 2011 from the University of Nebraska, cherishes his tenure in Philadelphia.

“I always loved my time with the Phillies, and still do,” he said. “I still look back on those days as some of the best in my life, not just in the big leagues but through the minor leagues. There were so many good people and fans, and the relationships I had I still hold dear to this day.”

Asche doesn’t take for granted his chance to wear a baseball uniform every day, even if it is at the double-A level.

“I am trying to relish every day I have with a baseball uniform on,” he said. “Maybe try to teach somebody something and help the kids out. If the cards fall the way I would like them to, maybe someday I will get back to the big leagues.”