Dash slugger’s sole goal: ‘play and compete at the highest level’

Dash slugger’s sole goal: ‘play and compete at the highest level’
June 11
00:00 2015

In photo above: Chris Jacobs has hit 89 home runs during his minor-league career.

     Chris Jacobs is built for power. Standing 6-feet-5 inches and weighing 260 pounds, the Winston-Salem native has the look of a basketball power forward or a football tight end/linebacker. Baseball, though, has always been his first love. Jacobs continues to pursue his dream of playing in the Major Leagues one day.

For his career, Jacobs has belted 89 home runs with 328 RBIs, and he has a better than decent batting average for a long-ball hitter at .266. Over the past three seasons, he’s hit 56 home runs.

The Los Angeles Dodgers took Jacobs, the starting first baseman for the Winston-Salem Dash, in the 2007 draft after his graduation from Glenn High School. He was an All-State pick as a senior. Two years ago, he was promoted to the Double-A level (Chattanooga Lookouts) but returned to the Single-A California League (Rancho Cucamonga Quakes) after a short stint.

Last year may have been Jacobs’s best as a pro. In his third season with the Quakes, he slammed 25 home runs and drove in 94 runs, in spite of playing the final month of the season with a torn ligament in his wrist.

The Chicago White Sox signed Jacobs in January, and then assigned him to play for his hometown team in mid-April. The assignment didn’t signal a promotion. The Dash plays in the Carolina League, which is the same Single-A level as the California League. So, it’s hardly surprising that he received the news with mixed emotions. “It’s a little bittersweet coming back home to play in high-A (league) after playing for a few years,” said Jacobs. “But to come home and be able to play in front of my family, that was a real up-side to it. It’s great to have my mom in the stands so I can go home to good cooking. That’s a plus. When I lived on the other side of the country (West Coast), I’d eat fast food nearly every night.”

     This season got off to a wobbly start for Jacobs, who struggled at the plate with a .180 batting average in his first 16 games with the Dash. Since then, it’s been a vastly different story. Jacobs has raised his average by 93 points and was hitting a team-high .273 at the start of this week.

The former Glenn star recently granted “SportsWeek” some interview time to discuss his career in pro baseball.
     SW: Describe your journey as a pro athlete up to now.

     Jacobs: It’s been one, big growing experience. I learned a lot about myself and how to handle adversity. When things didn’t go my way, I learned how to keep my head up. Aside from that, I learned how to make the most of the opportunities that come my way.

    SW: Any advice for athletes who want to turn pro right out of high school?

    Jacobs: A lot depends on the athlete and their situation. If he has the talent and the opportunity to go far, then I say go for it. Work as hard as you can and keep your eyes on the prize.

     SW: What’s one of the most important lessons that you’ve learned?

     Jacobs: I’m glad that my dad [Eugene Jacobs] taught me how to fight – how to keep on going and not give up. That’s very helpful in a game like baseball, where there’s a lot of failure.

    SW: How’s that?

    Jacobs: In baseball, the best of the best fail seven out of 10 times. So, there’s a need to know how to deal with adversity. It takes strength and fortitude to keep moving forward. It all comes down to the belief you have in yourself. I thank God for every opportunity I’ve ever had.

    SW: What’s been your biggest challenge?

Jacobs: The main thing in baseball is consistency. The guys who are the most consistent are the ones playing in the big leagues. It’s not necessarily the ones who are the most talented. It’s the ones who go out and play, compete, put up good numbers and do something to help their teams win on a daily basis. Throughout the years I’ve been playing – little by little – I’ve picked up bits of information that’s been very helpful. Even when you’re not at your very best, you figure out ways to still be productive. That’s very important to remember because it’s a long season. We play a 140-game schedule.

    SW: What are some of those other ways to make an impact on the game?

    Jacobs: You might not be able to hit a home run, but you can move a runner over, or hit a sacrifice, or score a run for your team. The guys in the big leagues always find ways to win ball games.
SW: Looking back over your baseball career, is there anything you would do differently?

    Jacobs: Not really. But I have thought about that a few times. Of course, I’d like to have had more success earlier in my career. But in looking back, I can see that everything I’ve gone through has helped to make me who I am now. I’m pretty happy with myself as a person. I might not be content with my situation, but I’m never complacent.

     SW: You had some exceptional seasons in the California League. This year, you’re hitting for average, but your power numbers aren’t quite the same (2 home runs, 21 RBIs at press time). What’s been the difference?

    Jacobs: There’s no difference in the pitching from last year [California League] to this year [Carolina League]. As for my power numbers being different, that’s just baseball. You could be doing the exact same things at the plate with the exact same swing. But the numbers might not be the same every season. There are guys in the Majors who hit 40 home runs last year. But so far this season, they’ve only homered two or three times.

    SW: So, how do you get back to playing at the level you were at a year ago?

    Jacobs: You have to keep working, keep grinding. My swing doesn’t feel as good as it has in the past. But that doesn’t mean that things won’t turn around real soon. I’m doing a lot of good work with our hitting coaches, trying to find a good routine.

     When I was in spring training I hit balls everywhere – not over the fence – but a lot of hard line drives. Since I’ve been here, I’ve gotten a little off of what I was doing during spring training. With the time I’m putting in with my coaches, it will hopefully carry over to game situations like it should.

     SW: You’re closing in on a career milestone for home runs. Were you aware of that?

     Jacobs: That was first brought to my attention after I hit my first home run here (April 29). Prior to that, I really hadn’t given it any thought at all. Yeah, it would be cool for me to hit 11 more home runs this season and make it an even 100 for my career.

     SW: What is it that you most want to accomplish this season?

     Jacobs: When I think about it, it’s not about the season, it’s about the career. I just want to reach my full potential. It might not be this year. It might be next year, or the year after. What it all boils down to is for me to keep working hard. My prime goal is to prove that I can play and compete at the highest level.
     In spring training I played with Charlotte’s Triple-A team [Knights]. I got the opportunity to play against a lot of players who are on the 40-man rosters of Major League teams. I played against them and did real well. That just sparked a fire and let me know that I really can do this.

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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