Missions OF Greg Jacobs (Seattle Mariners)
San Antonio Missions outfielder Greg Jacobs is on a path that very few athletes care to take. The left-handed slugger is playing through more than just cold weather, tough pitching, and a sore heel. Check out what Jacobs told InsidethePark.com's Joe Weiss about his approach to the game and what is inspiring his recent torrid streak.
Watching him play, watching him swat fastballs like they were cantalope-sized
and arriving across the plate in slow motion, watching him push his ludicrously
high batting-average (.519) and slugging-percentage (1.074) even higher, you’d
never suspect he was hurting.
But Greg Jacobs is in pain, and it’s not just pain of the physical sort.
“I’ve got a lot of things on my mind right now,” the Missions left-fielder told
InsidethePark.com in a pre-game interview on Thursday, his eyes betraying the
fact even before his words could. “I’ve got a grandma and grandpa that aren’t
doing too well.”
Jacobs’ grandmother has a tumor on her lung and, he explained, is too old for
the rigors of surgery. Soon, and she’ll begin radiation therapy to stave off an
inevitability he appeared to regard with a soft-spoken but obvious trepidation.
“They’re struggling,” he added, as if there were any doubt.
It’s his refusal to hide from grief, however, his insistence on taking an
emotional monkey wrench with the potential to grind to a halt the machinery of
his gameplay and using it for a club, instead, which reveals a champion’s heart.
“I know that probably one of my grandparents’ biggest things is that they want
to see me play in the big leagues,” he said. “I’m just trying to use [the
cancer] as motivation to get there so that they can see me.”
This philosophy is nothing new for Jacobs; even before his grandmother’s
diagnosis, he was on the way to realizing the importance in mastering the
Zen-like ability to cope with, or even exploit, the mind’s many distractions.
“This game is so mental and so little physical it makes me laugh a little,”
Jacobs, 23 at the time, wrote in a 2000 article for www.futureangels.com
entitled, “The Mental Part of the Game.” “I read a quote the other day by
Michael Jordan talking about how many times he has missed a key shot…What made
him succeed was failing and having himself fail under the spotlight. That is
what has made him so great today. All it did is made him work harder and
“[Your problems] can burn you if you let them get to you,” he continues in the
article. “You just have to check yourself and see if you can beat them and
leave them at the door before you step onto the field.”
And so far, beat them he has; from his very first at-bat this season, when he
connected for a solo shot off of the Midland’s Mike Ziegler, Jacobs has been
instilling in opposing pitchers the kind of fear and uncertainty he, himself,
has learned to conquer. In particular, it’s been the Rockhounds who’ve suffered
his free-swinging wrath: in the second game of the season-opening five game
road-trip against the ‘Hounds, Jacobs pounded doubles in both the second and
fourth frames, extra-base knocks that served as mere preludes to his
seventh-inning pièce de résistance of both a single and a grand-slam.
Perhaps, then, there’s some irony in the fact that, after spending two games
manhandling the Rockhounds, it took an actual rock to slow him down.
“There’s this little ledge at the hotel [in Midland], and I just stepped over it
and my heel just landed straight on a rock,” he explained. “It hurts bad.”
And his bruised heel hurt the Missions, too, who had to go without their
molten-hot player for three games. Upon returning, though, Jacobs immediately
began where he’d left off, clubbing two doubles and a three-run homer and
leading a shell-shocked El Paso pitching staff to wonder whether that rock
hadn’t actually been made of kryptonite.
Jacobs began his career as a pitcher, and acknowledges that the transformation
to an outfielder has given him several advantages now that he stands on the
other side of the plate.
“I used to sit down with (Anaheim pitching coach) Bud Black during the
off-season,” he said. “We would talk about pitching - pitching against the
hitters, setting hitters up. Now I’m flip-flopping it.”
Meanwhile, opposing Texas League managers are flip-flopping in their beds at
night instead of sleeping, suffering uneasy dreams of a California-born hitter
who reaches safely every other at-bat, was taught to “trust your wrists” by
Major League great Rod Carew, and refuses to be psyched out.
It’s enough to turn a skipper’s hair gray, to force a Seattle Mariners’ scout to
salivate, and to make a grandparent proud.