College Baseball

Strong finish to season shows Jacob is making progress

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Sep. 19, 2017 12:01 am Updated: Sep. 20, 2017 2:36 am

The year that seemed to take forever to get started came to an all-too-abrupt end.

At least David Jacob can take good vibes with him into the offseason.

Plagued by back issues at the end of spring training, the former Quincy University first baseman didn't play his first official game of the summer until July 8, then suited up for four different teams within the Toronto Blue Jays organization. His season ended at the beginning of September with Midwest League Player of the Week honors and a stretch in which few pitchers could get him out.

It changed his perspective entirely.

"I'd get two hits, and I was antsy to get back up to the plate," Jacob said. "I hadn't really had that all year where I really wanted to get back up to the plate."

That's because his season had been a roller coaster from the start.

"There were times I was really down on baseball," Jacob said. "I started questioning things. It's really up and down emotionally. Then you have that outburst and you're like, ‘I can do this. I can do this.' It's a challenge to stay positive through it all."

When your season gets delayed twice, staying positive isn't easy.

Jacob worked out at the Blue Jays' spring training facility in Dunedin, Fla., until the end of May when he was expecting to be sent to the Vancouver Canadians, the Class A short season affiliate in the Northwest League. However, on May 26, Jacob tweaked his back and his departure was delayed until June 11.

Just before that flight, during a weight-lifting session, Jacob aggravated the back pain. It meant another delay.

"Before you know it, it's a month into the season before I'm even getting called up there," Jacob said.

After stops in Bluefield (rookie league) and Buffalo (Triple-A) for a game apiece, Jacob reached Vancouver and started off with a bang, hitting a grand slam in his first game. He spent 23 games with the Canadians, hitting .267 with four home runs and 22 RBIs before being promoted to the Class A Lansing Lugnuts.

"I struggled at first because I didn't see it as much of a promotion," Jacob said. "Vancouver was already in the playoffs, and Lansing was one of our worst teams in the organization, and they were already eliminated at the time. So it was like they were throwing me there and letting me finish the season.

"Once I got over that, I told myself, ‘See it as a promotion and see what you can do.'"

It took a week or so for that to happen.

Jacob went 1 for 19 in his first five games with the Lugnuts and felt completely out of sync.

"I wasn't even making solid contact," Jacob said. "I had to go back to the basics and hit off a tee in the cage before a game just to feel that solid contact."

Three consecutive games with singles turned things around.

"I had a couple hits fall through, and before you know it, you have 10 or 11 hits in a six-game span," Jacob said.

That's when things got rolling. He went on a 10-game hit streak, collected at least one hit in 12 of his final 14 games and had two or more hits in eight of those. He finished the year hitting .288 at Lansing and .274 overall.

"I only played an official 43 games," Jacob said. "Behind the scenes, I played 60 or 70 games that didn't matter toward your stats. I played a lot of baseball this year. It is an absolute grind."

Even so, he came away wanting to be prepared once spring training 2018 rolls around.

"Always stick to it," Jacob said. "It's a long year, and I've never been one to look at stats. I looked up and could see I was hitting .025 or whatever it was, but you have to realize there's a lot of baseball to be played and you can't just look at stats.

"You just keep performing the best you can."

In the end, Jacob once again showed he can hit at a high level.

"I really don't want it to end," he said. "I wanted to go up to the plate every time. I'll be ready to regain that feeling again."

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