First baseman Josh Ockimey hit 18 home runs for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs over parts of the 2017-18 seasons. Last year, he hit 25 homers for Triple-A Pawtucket. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The door to the Honda CR-V swung open and both parties looked at their phone, then at each other.

“Josh?” I said.

“Jason?” he responded.

Thus began one of the most interesting seven-minute Lyft rides I’ve taken.

It was on a Saturday last September, when the Red Sox were playing out the string of a wildly disappointing season. It was about 10 in the morning and I was getting a ride from my hotel at the Philadelphia Navy Yard to nearby Citizens Bank Park, where I was to cover Boston’s 6-3 win over the Phillies.

The driver was warm and friendly with a strong presence in the front seat. We exchanged pleasantries. He asked why I was going to the park. I told him I was a Red Sox reporter for the Herald.


Quite humbly, he asked me if I knew another reporter on the beat. I did. He said he’d been interviewed by him a few times.

“Oh, what do you do?” I asked.

“I play baseball,” he said.

The driver was Red Sox prospect Josh Ockimey.

South Philadelphia, born and raised, he was home for the winter after another solid season in the Red Sox organization had ended. Originally drafted in the fifth round by the Red Sox in 2014, he passed on a chance to play for Indiana University to sign with Boston and has been climbing the ranks since.

He grew up in Philly with two working parents and two siblings. His mom works for the state of Pennsylvania. His dad is a sales director for Hewlett Packard.


“I didn’t grow up rich,” he said. “I watched my parents, they worked very hard to take care of us. Seeing that as a kid growing up, that’s how it’s supposed to be. They pass that on to me, my brother and sister. That’s how it is. You want to do something, you have to work.”

Some winters ago, Cole Hamels invited Ockimey to help work a two-day camp for kids in Philadelphia. It was the best-paying winter job Ockimey ever had.

This offseason, he tried a different job.

“I drove for Lyft almost every day,” he said. “Then as the offseason kept going, you’re trying to get into baseball shape. So I was doing it two or three times a week.”

The minor league pay structure isn’t a lucrative one. Players are only issued paychecks during the season and the system requires many of them to work second jobs in the offseason.

Ockimey, 24, wanted his own place to stay and chose not to stay with his parents this offseason. He supported himself.


But driving Lyft wasn’t just for the money.

“Take away the money aspect of it,” he said. “When I was driving I met some really good people.

“I had the president of the city’s recreation department or something. I had her in my Lyft and she said she takes care of all the charity events that go on in Philly. That stuff is really cool to me. Just being normal. Just having normal conversations with people. They enjoy it. And it makes fun out of a daily drive.”

Ockimey would start his shifts at 5 a.m. on most mornings and work for a while. As the offseason went on, he’d wrap up at about 9 a.m.

“The rest of the day was just to work out,” he said.

After a 20-homer season between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket in 2018, Ockimey was invited to the prestigious Arizona Fall League, where some of the game’s best prospects go to play. He batted just .172 with one homer in 18 games.


In 2019, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound first baseman knocked out 25 homers with an .811 OPS as a 23-year-old for the PawSox.

He earned a big league invite this spring and hit two homers with a .905 OPS in 11 games for the big league club before he was reassigned to minor league camp on Sunday.

“Feels like I got back to just having fun out there,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest thing. I kind of threw out the results because I know I’ve played better when I am having fun.”

The fun started in the offseason, driving Lyft around his hometown.

On that particular September day, the Red Sox used four players Ockimey had spent most of the season alongside in Pawtucket: Chris Owings, Sam Travis, Goryks Hernandez and Marco Hernandez.

Instead of being at the park, living his dream with his teammates on the field, Ockimey was dropping off a reporter at the press gate for about $10.

Looking back, Ockimey smiles.

“It’s not something to really get upset about,” he said. “You just have to realize it and go, ‘All right, this is my goal, stick to working towards that goal. Whatever I need to do to get to that goal, that’s what it’s got to be.'”

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