Brandon native living MLB dream

Jill Meier, Journal editor
Q&A with Jake Adams
Editor’s note: Brandon native Jake Adams was back in town recently, and BV Journal editor Jill Meier caught up with the Houston Astros sixth-round draft pick. 
As a junior, Adams had the biggest season in Iowa Hawkeye baseball history. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound first baseman hit 29 home runs in the 2017 season, the most in Iowa and Big Ten history. He batted .335 for the season with a .747 slugging percentage. 
Adams was selected by the Astros after earning All-America plaudits from three different outlets following his junior season. The former Brandon Valley Lynx shortstop was a second-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball and College Sports Madness and a third-team selection by Baseball America. He was also tabbed as the unanimous Big Ten Player of the Year and the only unanimous first team All-Big Ten selection in 2017. 
What’s it like to come home after such a year?
Jake: It feels good, even these couple days to get my legs underneath me. It’s been a grind going from college baseball. We started right away in January and I haven’t had a break since just now, so getting this week off is really nice. I have a lot of fans back here in South Dakota, so it’s kind of cool to come back and see everybody that’s cheering for me.
This is something you’ve been working for your whole life. What is like to make this step into the Major Leagues?
Jake: It’s a big step, obviously coming out of South Dakota period. There’s not a lot of guys that have that opportunity, let alone even play D-1 baseball. Making that step coming out of Brandon, going on to play two years of JUCO and playing one year at Iowa was just a great accomplishment the way it was. Obviously, my dream always was to play professional baseball. When I started putting up some big numbers at Iowa, I knew that I probably had the opportunity to go pursue a professional career and when I got the call in the sixth round, I mean, it was unbelievable.
You’re with the TriCity Valley Cats this summer. Is that still the plan?
Jake: That was just my first step, the short season in Single A league. That’s where all the new guys and some of the Latin guys that have been in it for just a couple years will go for a season. Right now, the path that they want to me take – I’ll be up on the next level – maybe at the Quad Cities or in Corpus Christie (AA). I’ll be going to Florida, West Palm Beach on Sunday (Sept. 17) and I’ll be there for 2 1/2 weeks to get acclimated to the organization. I’ll go to spring training in March and just keep working at it, and hopefully I can make the highest level.
How hard of a decision was it to make to not finish out your last year of college and take this next step?
Jake: Getting a degree at Iowa was something that I wanted to do right when I committed there. Obviously, I got my degree at a community college; that’s a good step, but I would’ve liked to get my degree there. Getting drafted in the sixth round and knowing I wasn’t going to get that kind of money at Iowa, it was kind of a no-brainer.
You had a pretty amazing season at Iowa... 
Jake: It was a crazy year. We had a lot of young guys and a lot of transfers come in, and we were picked fifth in our conference, we weren’t even supposed to make some noise. We got into the conference tournament and we rolled right through it. That was the first time Iowa has ever won a Big Ten championship in baseball. 
We went into our regional, and Coach Heller did a fabulous job. We were right there with both Houston and Texas A&M, so we knew we could play with those schools. We were just one hit, one run away from going on to the Super Regional. We were a really special team at Iowa, and I wish I could’ve went back but I think they’ll be just fine without me.
And you’ve had an amazing story to the pros.
Jake: I really wanted to sign in the fall of my sophomore year at DMACC (Des Moines Area Community College). I only had two offers – Houston Baptist and the University of North Dakota. I went on both of my visits but really fell in love with North Dakota, because I’m a big outdoorsman. I signed and everything was a done deal, and then there were about two weeks left at DMACC and we got a call saying that they are terminating their program and they’re not going to get it back. My heart sank. I didn’t know what I was going to do. There’s a lot of D-1 programs that wanted me but everybody was out of money because it was late in the process. Thank goodness for our hitting coach at DMACC, Shawn Moore, he played for coach Rick Heller at Iowa and he made a call, ‘Hey you need to take Jake, he’s really going to help out your program.’ Iowa wasn’t known for their power-hitting for the last six years, and this last year I think we tripled our numbers with the power. I went on my visit there, loved every minute of it, loved the coaches and they threw me some money and obviously, I couldn’t pass it down. My dream was to play Division 1 baseball and I got the opportunity again, went there, made my mark, and then got my chance to play professional baseball.
You won an assortment of accolades, including Big Ten Player of the Year. What does that mean to you?
Jake: Coming into the Big Ten in general, I knew what kind of player I was, but I did not think I was going to get any of these awards. Even if I didn’t get any awards, I still would’ve been totally fine with the season I had. I was very, very happy with it but just getting these really put the icing on the cake. It felt really good knowing that all my hard work had opened a lot of eyes in the Big 10 to see the kind of player I was, because I was kind of one of those underrated players – nobody really wanted me. I had too big of a swing, too slow, and all this stuff – so getting all these awards in the Big Ten, it felt really good and kind of gave me some chills when I started getting all these awards stacked up on each other.
As you said, they said you might be too slow for the Majors. You’re proving them differently.
Jake: One of the head guys in the organization, he does a lot of stuff behind the computer and whatnot, so he has a lot to say during the draft day. I sat down and talked with him and asked, ‘Why did they say that I couldn’t play first base, because that was a lot of the reason that a lot of the scouts passed on me.’ He said, ‘Honestly, I don’t know what they saw in you, but our scout thought that when he saw you he thought you were going to be a heck of a first baseman. You proved a lot of people wrong, made a lot of people mad because you came in this year and played one of the best first bases that we’ve had in a long time. We’re really happy with that because your bat’s going to come.’ Obviously, I struggled a little bit with my bat this year but we made a lot of adjustments to my swing. But I still have that power. I led the NY Pennant League in homeruns. He said, ‘As long as you can keep up your defense, you’re going to be just fine in this organization.’
You ended your collegiate career with a homerun and opened your MLB career with a home run. That’s a crazy ending and a crazy beginning.
Jake: Before that game I had a lot of jitters. I don’t know why I was nervous because it was the same game I’ve been playing all my life. I mean, yeah, it’s professional baseball. We knew we were facing a guy who was in AA, but was coming down for a rehab assignment and was throwing a lot harder than what I’d seen at college. I got down 1-2 in the count. I was sitting on an off-speed pitch because I knew that’s what he was going to throw me. He threw it and I hit it and I immediately took off sprinting because I at least wanted to get a double and all of a sudden, I heard a bunch of cheering and I looked up. I get chills even now talking about it. It was a special moment – my first ever professional at-bat, and I hit a home run; it was just a wonderful feeling.
Do you pay attention to your stats?
Jake: No, that’s something that I’ve never really done. There’s people that will tell me ‘You have this many homeruns, you’re this many homeruns from the record,’ but baseball’s a game of failure. You’re going to fail more than you’re going to succeed. Like I found out this year, changing my swing and not being really comfortable with it at the beginning of the year, not batting the way I wanted to, I didn’t pay attention to my stats at all because I knew they weren’t that great. I knew I had to get better, and even when I’m at the top of my game, I always know I have to get better. Obviously, homeruns, I know how many I’m at kind of. At one point, Brady Mutschler was my neighbor and on my team and we used to have a little board in my room, and every homerun I had in Little League, I was always marking them down because I knew I had a lot of marks on that. It would be kind of fun to go back and actually see how many I’ve hit in my life.
Do you dream of getting called up to the Astros?
Jake: I think everybody in the organization is waiting for that call at some point. I just can’t even imagine the day that I do get that call. My dad’s going to be the first one I call, then my mom and Lexi. I’ve been dreaming about that since I’ve been drafted, even since I’ve been a little kid. 
Were the Houston Astros your dream program to join?
Jake: Playing professional baseball in general was a dream. I don’t care who it was, where it was or anything. I grew up a Minnesota fan and being a Minnesota player would’ve been my dream, but being with any organization would’ve been just fine. This organization I am with right now is honestly the best fit for me to make my way up. They’re an up-and-coming team and right now they’re first in their division; they’ve been crushing it. I don’t know how long they’re going to keep some of these players like (Jose) Altuve, (George) Springer and whatnot. We don’t have enough money to keep them around because they’re All-Star players. Hopefully when the time comes that I get my call, they’ll have a spot up there for me.
I understand you have your own baseball trading card. How fun is that?
Jake: I do, yes. It was kind of funny ... All us new guys had never had a playing card before that, and we got a smile on our faces. It was kind of fun to see these guys’ reaction, like ‘Wow, we’ve made it.’ 
Why has this career in baseball been your forever dream?
Jake: Since I’ve been little I was gifted with the type of power that I have. Even talking with the organization, they said they’ve never seen this type of raw power from a baseball player before. When I was younger and I was hitting homeruns out when I was 10 years old, I knew it was something special. I really strived to get as good as I can at this sport as I can. For every homerun that I hit, it just kept pushing me to keep going because it’s always fun to hit those homeruns in big situations.
It all started for you at Aspen Park and Valley Springs…
Jake: Yes, a lot of ballparks, and I’m really excited to see what this new ballpark is going to be like over at Aspen. Trying to get the Legion (and high school) teams over here playing now, getting a better crowd and what not, Brandon is really good about supporting every team that they have. I can’t thank them enough for all of the support they’ve given me throughout my sporting career, so it’s kind of fun to see this new field being built.
Maybe there will be a dugout named after you someday...
Jake: Maybe. 
Are you making any celebrity appearances?
Jake: (Laughing) Not right now. I think I’m going to do a baseball camp here in August, but I’m not 100 percent sure on that one yet. Like I said, I want to help these kids out, keep them in baseball, and that would be a good way for me to show them what it’s like to keep pushing toward baseball. 
Your family, obviously, has been your No. 1 supporter, along with Lexi (Hoover, his girlfriend). How great is it to take them on this ride with you?
Jake: It’s unbelievable. Both of my parents still can’t believe that I finally made it, because they know how hard I’ve worked and this has obviously been my dream my whole life. They’ve supported me through everything, even my failures in this sport, even when they didn’t have enough money to send me to these camps, they always found a way to get me to do a sport that I love, and it paid off. Someday, hopefully I can pay them back.
I suppose to say ‘Thank you’ doesn’t seem enough?
Jake: No, they supported me, they followed me my whole career. They’re the ones that pushed me to be good at baseball and to get me to college because they knew that was the sport that I was best at even though some days I might not have even liked baseball and wanted to give up, they pushed me. To say ‘thank you’ doesn’t even come close to how much I appreciate them.
Any parting words you want to say to the public?
Jake: Like I said, I just can’t thank you guys enough for all of the support you’ve given me, all the love. I know there’s a lot of people out there, not even from Brandon, but from Sioux Falls and Rapid City that are following me and rooting for me because there’s not a lot people that have this opportunity. I just want to tell the kids, “Don’t give up on your dream because you don’t think you can achieve it. Always fight, always work hard at it. You never know, it just takes that one person to see you to make a life-changing decision for you.”


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