by JACK MELANSON, News Editor
Fabian Pena and Joe Jacques punched their tickets to the pros this summer in what is seemingly becoming a tradition for the Jasper baseball program.
Pena was selected as a catcher by the San Francisco Giants in the 25th round (736th overall) of the 2018 Major League Baseball Draft. Later, in the 33rd round (984th overall), Jacques would walk the plank and become a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“I was in disbelief when I heard my name called,” Jacques said. “This is the type of thing I dreamed and thought about everyday. Once it happened I couldn’t hold back the tears.”
Pena was a dreamer, too.
“[I’m] beyond blessed for the opportunity [the San Francisco Giants] have given me to continue to live my dream of playing the sport I love,” said Pena on Instagram.
The right-handed catcher has since posted Giant numbers in Rookie League play.
In 26 games, Pena has mounted an astounding .326 batting-average with a slugging-percentage of .567.
Pena’s OPS, a baseball statistic created by a hitters’ on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, reaches .943, a number, which if sustained over the course of an entire season, would rank him in the top-10 among MLB stat leaders.
Pena has also tallied nine doubles, four homers, 22 RBIs and 20 runs-scored.
As Pena’s road to The Show continues, he has a lot to be thankful for.
“Special thanks to my family…For the unconditional love and support they’ve given me ever since I was born,” Pena said via Instagram. “All my coaches, teammates and friends I’ve met throughout the years that have helped make this process a lot more enjoyable and unforgettable. Love you all and know is time to shine.”
So far, the former Jasper is shining bright.
Jacques, on the other hand, has had his ups-and-downs.
In 21 1/3 innings pitched, the 23-year-old New Jersey native has an earned-run average (ERA) of 6.33 and a has yet to record his first victory on the mound (0-2, 1 save).
However, with 19 strikeouts so far, the southpaw averages nearly one punch-out per inning.
Also on the upside, hitters are struggling against Jacques in Rookie League play, posting only a combined average of .232 when facing the lefty.
This uphill battle is familiar, according to Jacques.
“There’s been multiple times where I never knew if I would get a shot to play baseball again. I took a shot in the dark coming to Manhattan and trying to make the team as a walk-on…The stars must have aligned because it worked out pretty well,” said Jacques.
Through adversity and a refined drive to win games, Jacques has prevailed to this point, but he’s not finished yet.
“I see myself in the big leagues within ten years,” Jacques said. “I don’t ever doubt my ability no matter how things are going, which is key through the grind of the minor leagues. Hopefully, we can win a few championships at each level along the way. Playing on a winning team not only makes you look good, but it’s what it is all about.”
Jacques feels the Pirates are molding more than just winners, though.
“[The Pirates] invested into good people, not just good players. They treat us right and will not only help me grow as a professional baseball player but also a man,” Jacques said. “I feel like they’ll give me as much of a shot as anyone else. They don’t play favorites.”
While on the doorstep of his professional baseball career, the pitcher has not forgotten where he came from.
“I met some of my best friends [playing for the Jaspers] and was able to learn from some great coaches,” Jacques said. “These are people that will stick with me for life. Now I look forward to the things I’m going to learn from some of the best coaches and players in the world. The challenge of proving myself to the Pirates is also a task that I am ready for.”
Although Pena will no longer be catching for Jacques, the two plan to one day see each other on the big stage.
“Shoutout to my brother and catcher [Pena] getting a chance to live the dream,” Jacques said via Instagram. “See you out there, kid.”