Art Charles has lived out the ebbs and flows of his baseball career in real time.
A former 20th-round selection of the Philadelphia Phillies, the 6-foot-6, 220-pound first baseman earned all-star honors in 2011 and again in 2014 during his ascension through the organization’s farm club. Following a lackluster Double-A campaign a year later he was released, left to wonder if he’d get another chance. Then an amazing thing happened: Charles saw his career rejuvenated as he put up career numbers in independent ball. His .352 batting average with 29 homers, 101 RBIs and .699 slugging percentage were enough to get him a second shot. After signing with the Cincinnati Reds, Charles was scooped up by the Milwaukee Brewers in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. The last transaction sent Charles to Biloxi to open the 2017 season with a new lease on what once looked like it could have been a stalled career.
“It was definitely hard being released and being told they don’t want you,” he said. “I was at a low and feeling sorry for myself but then I kicked myself in the butt and was like, ‘hey man, it’s time to go to work. You have more to give to the game.’ “I believe in my abilities and knew that given the opportunity and at-bats that I would go out there and put up some numbers.”
“Being here now is huge. I kind of get that second chance, second life to show what I’m capable of doing.”
In independent ball, he reinvented himself. Against a smorgasbord of players whose experiences ranged from Major League Baseball down to Class-A, the baseball all of a sudden looked like a beach ball.
Charles has always been known for his power, totaling 66 homers in 517 games in the minors. His low contact rates, however, held him back. During his year in independent ball, Charles made consistent contact, which led to his statistics ballooning.
“The biggest thing was my mental approach and telling myself that something had to change,” he said. “What I was doing before wasn’t working, you know? I got released for a reason so I made sure that I went out there and made changes. I talked to people about their approaches, mentally and physically, in the box. I just added some of those things to my game and was able to have success doing that.
“I feel like it helped me to be released because it helped me realize those things. It was definitely a motivator.”
Because of his circuitous route to Biloxi, he terms his second chance “a blessing.” Now he’s got to make the most of it.
“Everybody’s path to ‘The Show’ is different, so I have to keep that in mind,” he said. “... I know regardless of what happens I have to perform. I have to go out there and compete day in and day out and handle my business. That’s what it all depends on anyway.
“If I go out there and play as good of baseball as I possibly can, and I’m consistent with it, I know I’ll get an opportunity to be on the big league club and make my dreams come true.”
Charles has gotten off to a slow start in Biloxi, where he’s been in a rotation at first base and designated hitter.
Entering Tuesday night’s game at Chattanooga, he had just 19 at-bats in eight games for the Shuckers. He was hitting .105 with a .227 on-base percentage, one double, one RBI and three walks.