It has always been a goal of Mechanicsville, Virginia’s own Jake Mayers to play professional baseball. He was a standout talent in high school, which led him to the University of Richmond, only 25 minutes away from home. Mayers achieved his long-term goal when the Arizona Diamondbacks drafted him in the 19th round.
Mayers is now a part of the Washington Nationals organization, and is doing whatever it takes to become a better baseball player. I was lucky enough to chat with Jake regarding his time at Richmond, what professional baseball has been like thus far for him, and what he hopes to accomplish in the future. Make sure to follow Jake on Twitter @JakeMayers16.
When did you start playing baseball? What got you into the sport?
I started playing baseball in 1996, when I was 6 years old. My mom signed my dad up to coach my tee-ball team and he didn’t find out until he received a letter in the mail congratulating him on being the new coach, and that’s where it all got started.
Did you have a favorite team growing up? Did you always have aspirations to become a professional baseball player?
The Atlanta Braves were my favorite team and my favorite player was Manny Ramirez, which led me to root for the Boston Red Sox as well. Although my favorite team now is the Washington Nationals, since that’s the organization I’m a part of. It has always been an ultimate dream of mine to play professional baseball.
In your senior season of high school, you were the State Player of the Year, and ranked the top high school prospect out of all the prep schools in the Commonwealth. You batted .430 in your senior year, but also owned a .12 ERA with 100 strikeouts. What do you think made you so elite at both the plate and on the mound.
Just being confident in myself that I can perform at a high level in both aspects of the game. Also working hard to get better every day because this game has such a mental aspect to it that is so crucial to my success.
You decided not to go far for college and to attend the University of Richmond. What went into that decision and How has your experience at Richmond help you become a better baseball player?
At first, both me and my brother were going to attend the University of Richmond, but that did not work out for other reasons. I was already committed to Richmond so I ended up staying there. They also gave me the best offer financially so that played a role in my decision. Being close to home was important as well. My family were able to go to all of my home games and having that support and comfort level meant a lot to me.
You had an outstanding senior season while at Richmond where you threw complete game shutouts, had a save, and were able to put up a team high batting average of .359. Was this the year when you started to see the scouts coming and you were starting to get noticed for all your hard work and success.
During my freshman year of high school actually is when scouts started to watch me play. I was ranked #3 by Baseball America so there was interest in me since the beginning of high school.
I also saw the video where you decided to propose to your girlfriend on the day of your final home game at Richmond. What made you decide that was where you wanted to do it?
It was my idea, with my mom’s help, to do it on the mound, and thought that was the best place to propose to her. It was my last home game at Richmond. She has been involved in baseball as much as I have and was completely shocked when I proposed, so I thought it would be the ideal spot. Also it worked out well for family and friends to watch it since they have been at all of my home games throughout my career at Richmond.
In 2013, you were drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 19th round. Tell us a little bit about that day, and what it was like when you finally found out the Diamondbacks drafted you.
It was the best day of my life. I was able to have my dream come true and get drafted by a great organization in the Arizona Diamondbacks. I was so blessed to have the opportunity to play professional baseball when I found out I was drafted. It definitely will be a day I will never forget until the day I die.
You spent your first two seasons as part of the Diamondbacks organization, and last year as part of the Nationals organization. What do you think was the biggest adjustment you faced in becoming a professional athlete?
Just being immune to the independent aspect of it. In college it was more this is the way we do it here at the University of Richmond, but on a professional level, it is much more about your career.
What have you been doing this offseason to prepare yourself for the 2016 season?
I have been training this offseason, staying in shape for the start of the season. I also work at an indoor baseball facility in Manhattan, so I’ve been able to take advantage of that to be able to train for the upcoming season.
What do you think is an area in your game that you would like to improve on?
Definitely catching. I always have been able to hit so catching is something I have been focusing on. I recently made the switch to becoming a catcher, so just trying to get more comfortable behind the plate. I’ve been working on blocking, reaction, and the defensive aspect of the position.
Any individual goals of yours that you want to accomplish this upcoming season?
To get more experience as someone behind the plate that the team can rely on going forward. Right now, I’m not one of the primary options, so a goal of mine is to be someone that they can rely on as that second catcher if an injury was to occur.