Senior Nate Jakobs smashes a double in his last at-bat as a Cavalier on May 6 against Leroy Greene Academy. (Photo courtesy of Nate Jakobs)

Baseball player chooses sun at Division III Pitzer over snow on East Coast

Senior Nate Jakobs wasn’t always the highly touted player he is today. He started like most kids in what he called a “prototypical American summer” filled with baseball, burgers and ice cream.

After years of hard work, Jakobs signed with Pitzer College in Claremont on April 29 to play outfield for the Division III Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens. 

During the college search process, Jakobs looked mostly at Division III schools, noting the significant time commitment and difficulty of playing in higher divisions. At first, Jakobs had interest in East Coast Division III schools.

“I didn’t want to be in the snow, which only left a few options for schools that were good academically and good baseball programs,” Jakobs said. “Pitzer happened to be the one that fit my goals, and I was a good fit there.”

“Pitzer happened to be the one that fit my goals, and I was a good fit there.”

—Nate Jakobs

Jakobs mentioned the difficulty of the recruiting process, citing the uneasiness involved with college admissions. 

“It’s a lot of guesswork,” he said. “Coaches don’t have an incentive to be clear because there (are) a lot of uncertainties. I am lucky to be where I am.”

Growing up, Jakobs liked baseball and started playing in the Land Park Pacific Little League at age 5. Though right-handed, young Jakobs first picked up a bat and swung lefty — never looking back. After playing Little League for seven years, Jakobs joined his first club team at age 11. 

Jakobs started to focus more on baseball at ages 14 and 15, continuing to craft his swing and motion. After going back and forth about continuing to play and the time commitment, Jakobs recognized his passion for baseball and decided to “hammer down and go for it,” practicing five or six times a week.

“I looked into swing planes and developed a new routine to get rid of old habits,” he said. “I practiced hitting it absurdly high off a tee, going through different progressions that helped me get a feel for my swing.”

For Country Day, Jakobs batted .584 with an on-base percentage of .688 and 34 extra-base hits, including seven home runs, in his four years.

Jakobs also pitched, striking out 119 batters in 79 career innings at Country Day.

However, Jakobs missed nine of 11 games this season following a ski accident at Lake Tahoe on Feb. 20. Partially tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL), he went through a few months of physical therapy at Results PT.

Now, Jakobs said he’s doing an intensive ACL return-to-sport training class, also at Results PT. 

Coach Chris Millsback commended Jakobs on his career.

“Nate Jakobs is one of the most talented baseball players that I have worked with in my 20 years of coaching,” he said.

“Nate Jakobs is one of the most talented baseball players that I have worked with in my 20 years of coaching.”

—Chris Millsback

Jakobs has been selected to play for the Optimist High School All-Star North team for small schools on June 8.

“It’s primarily for ballplayers that will be playing in college, and (Jakobs) is certainly deserving of this honor,” Millsback said. 

Jakobs also decided to delve deeper into advanced statistics and analysis during high school. Studying baseball in a new light was the “transcendental moment” for Jakobs.

“I was interested in the strategy and inner workings of swings, pitching mechanics and how players move,” he said. “I started studying what elite hitters do, and that deepened my interest and also made me a much better player.”

Jakobs’ interest in stats and analysis branched into writing about baseball. Through “baseball Twitter,” he met Jeremy Frank, a fellow high school senior who became popular tweeting about baseball statistics. After Frank created a writing service, he contacted Jakobs to write articles.

Not just a player but also a baseball fan, Jakobs jumped on the opportunity to work in the Sacramento River Cats’ clubhouse this spring, getting a behind-the-scenes look at players. 

Throughout high school, Jakobs gained “irreplaceable” memories in Japan and Israel. He experienced Japanese baseball with his club team, Walbeck Force, for two weeks during a cultural exchange in July 2015. Jakobs played baseball, met other players and visited temples on his trip.

Senior Nate Jakobs, wearing his gold medal from the 2017 Maccabiah Games in Israel, poses with an Israeli youngster also named Nate.

In Israel, Jakobs competed in the 2017 Maccabiah Games, or the “Jewish Olympics,” in which over 10,000 Jewish athletes from 85 countries compete in 45 sports. Besides the cultural experience of playing baseball in the Holy Land, Jakobs brought home a gold medal for the U.S. team. 

Jakobs said he cherishes the relationships he has formed and his Little League memories.

“The connections I’ve made around the world through the national team in Israel are so valuable because a lot of (the players) are going to top colleges around the (U.S.) and are smart kids that I’ll be able to connect with forever,” he said. “Also, I’ve met good coaches around the (Sacramento) region who have been great resources throughout the years.”

Baseball has influenced Jakobs’ life in many ways — including his outlook on career opportunities, he said.

“I’m definitely interested in working in baseball, but not as a player,” he said. “Seeing the ins-and-outs of how the business side works is pretty interesting.”

By Jackson Crawford

Originally published in the May 28 edition of the Octagon.

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