Adams made Woodpeckers' April '19 a debut to remember

By: 
Sammy Batten,The Fayetteville Observer

Jake Adams teaches the finer points of the game to local youth during a baseball camp he led in Brandon last August.

Jill Meier/BV Journal file photo

The former Big Ten Conference Player of the Year helped make the long-awaited debut of the Fayetteville Woodpeckers a rousing success with a four-for-six, seven-RBI hitting performance that led to a 15-0 victory against the Potomac Nationals.

Jake Adams earned himself a place alongside Babe Ruth, Jim Thorpe, Calvin Koonce and others by producing a special memory in Fayetteville’s baseball history a year ago on April 4.

The former Big Ten Conference Player of the Year helped make the long-awaited debut of the Fayetteville Woodpeckers a rousing success in Woodbridge, Va., with a 4-for-6, seven-RBI hitting performance that led to a 15-0 victory against the Potomac Nationals. Highlighting the evening for the Woodpeckers and Adams was his fourth-inning, grand-slam home run over the highest sign above the left-field wall at Pfitzner Stadium.

“I’ve had some big games throughout my career, but I think that’s one of the top five,” Adams said in early April in a telephone interview from his home in Brandon. “But that may have actually been the best game in pro ball that I’ve had. For it to be the opening game for Fayetteville, and have it play out like that was very special.”

The day capped a build-up of anticipation that started in December 2016 when the Houston Astros signed a 30-year lease agreement with Fayetteville to house its Advanced Class A minor league franchise. The team had to play its first two seasons at Campbell University’s home field 30 minutes away in Buies Creek while a new $30 million stadium was constructed in the heart of Fayetteville’s downtown.

The finishing touches were being put on Segra Stadium as the Woodpeckers took the field for the first time in Woodbridge, where minor league baseball was actually coming to an end. The Nationals had already announced a move to Fredericksburg, Va., for 2020 and were playing their final season at Pfitzner Stadium, which explained the small crowd present on a chilly spring evening for the opener.

Adams, a first baseman, had finished the 2018 season in Buies Creek, where he helped the Astros win the Carolina League championship. His game-tying home run in the eighth forced extra innings in the title game, which Buies Creek eventually won 2-1 against Potomac.

Spring training had been a struggle for Adams, who was revamping his swing. He collected just one hit – that one coming in a spring exhibition game with the major league club – before reporting to Fayetteville to start the 2019 season.

“I was changing my swing a complete 360, so I was kind of mentally prepared for the struggles that were going to happen in the spring,” Adams said. “I was just trying to get my timing right and the mechanics down. Going into opening day everybody was jacked up and ready to get out and there and start competing. I just went out there and tried to have fun.”

The first time up against Potomac, however, Adams’ spring training woes continued as he struck out. “I’m a power hitter, so I know I’m going to strike out,” he said. “I think I swung at a couple of bad pitches, so I really got myself out. But you can’t beat yourself up much after the first at bat of the season.”

Adams would snap out of his slump in spectacular fashion with his next four at bats. He belted a pitch so hard off the left-field wall that he was held to a two-RBI single in the third inning to put the Woodpeckers ahead 4-0. The right-handed slugger then came to the plate again in the top of the fourth, this time with the bases loaded.

Former University of North Carolina pitcher A.J. Bogucki entered the game for Potomac in relief and quickly ran the count to 1-1 against Adams.

“I think I did take one big hack and missed,” Adams said. “I had to step out and kind of settle myself down a little bit. I’m a power guy so if I put a pretty good swing on it, it’s going to go regardless. So I just calmed down and waited for my pitch. And I got it.”

Adams crushed a slider from Bogucki high over the left-field wall for a grand slam, giving him six RBIs in the game. He would later add another RBI single to left field.

“I think that game gave our (Fayetteville) fans something to look forward to when we got home,” Adams said.

Of course, the Woodpeckers would play 13 more road games while Segra Stadium was being completed before debuting there before a crowd of 6,202 on April 18.

Adams went on to become one of Fayetteville’s most popular players and top hitters. He hit .246 with a team-best 15 homers and 66 RBIs to earn Carolina League all-star honors before being promoted to Class AA Corpus Christi in August. Adams continued his strong hitting there, cracking seven homers and driving in 21 runs in 27 games.

Now, like everyone else around the world, Adams is confined to home in Brandon due to the COVID-19 outbreak that led to the cancellation of spring training and had put the 2020 baseball season in jeopardy. He’s still finding places to work out and spending time with his new wife, Lexi. The pair were married last November.

If the 2020 season is played, Adams expects to start out again at Class AA Corpus Christi. But he’ll never forget the time spent in Buies Creek and Fayetteville.

“I’m always going to remember those two places because they are very special to me,” Adams said. “Winning a championship in Buies Creek, then helping get things started in Fayetteville and with the new stadium were special things to experience.”

 

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