Stepping up a notch
Scott Andrew Taras
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Former UA infielder Jake Thrower gets himself ready for a ground ball Friday night at Tucson Electric Park when his Las Vegas Stars took on the Tucson Sidewinders. Thrower is just one step away from the "big show" with the San Diego Padres, a feat that few thought he would accomplish.
Arizona Summer Wildcat
Former Wildcat infielder Jake Thrower has a last name that's perfect for a professional baseball player. But for Thrower, who played at UA from 1995-'97, getting to the majors seemed like a long shot when he left school after his junior year and signed a free agent contract with the San Diego Padres.
It didn't seem like Thrower would be poised to jump to San Diego anytime soon when he was assigned to Class A Clinton in 1998.
He had the defensive skills, but the question asked was - could Thrower be a hitter?
When injuries hit the Padres' AAA team in Las Vegas this year, Thrower, despite only hitting .242 at AA Mobile, earned a promotion.
He has made the most of his chance.
"Right now I'm having a ball," Thrower said. "I'm getting my at-bats, I'm getting my hits here. It's fun."
He exploded in his first 10 games with the Stars, hitting .450 (18 for 40) and thereby encouraging the Padres to keep him at AAA.
"I've been moving up pretty rapidly," he said. "Some injuries have happened, I was supposed to fill in, but that's how you get your chance.
"I'm hungry. I want to get there (the majors) as soon as possible."
UA head coach Jerry Stitt said he believed Thrower could rise up to play pro ball.
"Jake always had great talent, great instincts for the game," Stitt said. "He was a talent, a switch hitter, a good hitter."
Thrower said the transition to pro ball wasn't as difficult thanks to Stitt and former UA head coach Jerry Kindall.
"The wood bat was a little tough to get used to," Thrower said. "Of course some of the pitchers were tough, but there's some excellent baseball in the Pac-10. The pitching is (Class) AA quality.
"Coach Kindall and Coach Stitt taught good, fundamental baseball. Every day Coach Stitt was out there with you. He was very good on (teaching) the mental aspect of baseball."
Stitt said the hardest thing for players to adjust to is the increase in games, which is as much mental as it is physical.
"The biggest challenge is playing so much," he said. "When they go from college to pro ball it's another step up in terms of playing time. It's the kind of pace that either wears you down or you learn to cope with it."
Stitt said he saw the wear and tear of a long season take its toll on Thrower before this year.
"He was worn down a little bit the first couple of years," Stitt said. "This year, if he sticks in AAA, he can get a call late. It's definitely not a talent thing with him, he's got that, it's just being in the right place at the right time."
Minor League stats
1999 Avg. AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI
Las Vegas (AAA) .354 82 19 29 6 1 2 15
Mobile (AA) .242 149 15 36 9 2 3 26
Totals .277 231 34 64 15 3 5 41
Avg. AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI
1995 .337 166 42 56 6 3 1 24
1996 .274 223 44 61 15 2 2 27
1997 .319 229 51 73 13 3 5 51
Totals .307 618 137 190 34 8 8 102