Growing up as a kid, J.P. Sportman was always around baseball.
Having a father who played baseball at Florida Southern resulted in Sportman being around the game a lot as a kid.
“He stuck a bat and a ball in my hands and it just came to me through him,” Sportman said.
In addition, you could see Sportman playing baseball with his friends in his neighborhood almost everyday.
When did Sportman realize that he could play baseball for a living?
“It’s funny how you say that,” Sportman said. “I always had a passion for basketball, and my freshman year I almost gave up baseball to play basketball.”
His dad, a mentor to Sportman, told him that it would be a big mistake to quit baseball, but Sportman wanted to give basketball a shot. A shooting guard, he transferred high schools and started playing better competition and he immediately noticed that he wasn’t able to drive inside the paint on the big men.
After thinking long and hard about the decision, Sportman realized that his skillset, especially his 5-foot-9, 190-pound frame, fit baseball much better than basketball, so he decided to pursue baseball full time.
Coming out of high school, Sportman wasn’t highly recruited, and he ended up attending Central Connecticut State University. Coming in, he wanted to impress the coaches and make an immediate impact on the team.
Central Connecticut State University’s coaches Charlie Hickey and Pat Hall, whom Sportman refers to as “old school guys,” were tough coaches, but they kept drilling the small details into him, which he believes was Hickey and Hall preparing him for the next level.
After his time with Central Connecticut State University, Sportman entered the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft, where he was selected in the 27th round by the Oakland Athletics.
Being drafted in the 27th round, the odds are instantly stacked against you of ever making the big-league team. But Sportman, only 24 years old, is already in Double-A, and in his two and a half seasons in the minor leagues, he has hit .292 with eight home runs and 71 RBIs.
Sportman, a player not too many know about, is a player the Athletics are said to be really excited about.
How could a 27th-round pick from Central Connecticut State University inspire such excitement?
“The preparation every single day,” Sportman said. “I get to the ballpark every single day and I do the same exact things and I’m always trying to maximize my ability. It’s about having a routine and being able to accustom yourself to this lifestyle. It’s a grind. I’m just trying to be the best player I can be.”
Sportman has faced plenty of struggles coming up through college and the minors, but fortunately for him, he has always had a prominent big leaguer right by his side. In his last two years of college, Sportman never went home because he would spend the offseasons training and working out with Houston Astros outfielder George Springer
Sportman calls it an invaluable friendship, since he got to pick Springer’s brain and watch how he goes about his day, how he prepares, and how he became the player he is today.
“There are so many things that [Springer] taught me, both mentally and physically,” Sportman said. “Whenever I’m down or I’m going through a tough little stretch, I have him to lean on. He’s only one call or text away.”