By Shea Stine
Nine Hundred and Seventy One. That’s how many names were called in the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft before David Jacob received his call from the Toronto Blue Jays in the 32nd round.
“Once the 30th round hit, I started to have a few doubts, but I was glued to my phone all day watching the draft tracker. I was warming up to play a game for my summer league team, and I kept my phone close by. Finally, it rang, and I was really excited and relieved,” said Jacob.
Jacob was relieved because despite being a two time all conference performer in three years at Quincy, he knew scouts still had some concerns about how his performance would translate from a division two school to the minor leagues. It didn’t take much time for him erase those doubts.
Jacob signed a contract quickly and reported to Dunedin, Florida where he was assigned to the Blue Jays’ rookie league team in the Gulf Coast League. It took Jacob a little bit of time to adjust to the grueling schedule.
“I struggled at first in mini camp and the first 5-6 games of the seasons. We woke up at six in the morning and went straight to the ballpark to work out and practice and do different drills, and then when all that was done at around noon, we would play a game. There are guys that play here and hit .225 and go to the next level up and start hitting way over .300 just because it can be such a grind in rookie ball,” said Jacob.
Jacob adjusted, and things started to turn. The Blue Jays went on a 15 game winning streak, which coincided with a nine game hitting streak for Jacob.
“I finally started playing everyday and got some momentum at the plate. The winning streak was a blast and we enjoyed every game,” Jacob said.
He rode that momentum steadily through the season finishing as one of the league’s statistical leaders while competing against players picked way before him in the draft. Jacob finished fourth in the league in batting average, third in on base percentage, tied for fourth in home runs, eighth in runs batted in and third in on base plus slugging percentage.
Jacob’s performance was so impressive that he even earned a late season promotion to class A Vancouver, where he had three hits in ten at bats including a double and a triple. For the year, between the two levels, Jacob hit .304 with six home runs, 10 doubles, 31 runs batted in and a .392 on base percentage.
While Jacob has enjoyed his hot start, his friends back in Quincy are celebrating with him every step of the way.
“I call and check on him and see how he’s been doing, and it’s been awesome that he’s been tearing it up. We all know how much he deserves it, and I always see something about how well he’s been playing,” said senior Bobby Keller, who was Jacob’s roommate the past two years.
When asked if he was surprised by Jacob’s early success, Quincy baseball coach Josh Rabe offered a simple response.
“No. Hitters hit,” said Rabe.
While the response may seem simple, Rabe brings a unique evaluation. Rabe was also a baseball player for Quincy before being drafted and making it to the major leagues with the Minnesota Twins.
“What we teach here at Quincy is what I learned in the pro game. If you can have success here, you can have success in pro ball,” said Rabe.
Ultimately, Jacob hopes to follow in Rabe’s footsteps, but for now, he is keeping things simple. He will return to Florida the third week of September to compete in an instructional league for five weeks. After that, Jacob will return to Quincy to work out over the winter before going back for spring training in March.
“I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. Right now, my goals are to continue doing well in instructionals and make it to Lansing (one step above Vancouver) next year out of spring training. Beyond that, we will see, but right now I’m focused on those two things,” said Jacob.
One thing is for sure. If Jacob continues to perform, people will wonder why there were 971 names called before his.