More than most sports, the game of baseball is tied to its statistics.
Sure wins lead to championships, but it’s the numbers that define the players. Finish a season or career with a .300 average or better, and you’re a great hitter. Throw a slew of innings and finish with an ERA lower than 2.00, and you’re a great pitcher. Get on base more than 50 percent of the time, and you’re a valuable asset to any team’s lineup.
The statistical analysis goes on and on, and when it comes to high school baseball, you’d be hard pressed to find any player with numbers that match those of Jefferson High’s Jake Fields.
In four years starting for the Dragons, Fields hit .561 with 193 hits, 44 doubles, 57 home runs, 97 walks and 189 RBIs; numbers that put him in the top 3 of six offensive categories in Georgia high school baseball history, according to gasports.com.
“The Lord has really blessed me,” Fields said. “I’ve had great coaching and played with great players.
“I’m not any superhuman or anything, I’m just really blessed.”
His numbers during his senior season were otherworldly. Despite being asked to play a much larger role for Jefferson — including catching many games and pitching when he wasn’t behind the plate — Fields still led the area with a .628 average, 16 home runs, a .737 on-base percentage, and an 11-1 record on the mound.
For his efforts, and for a remarkable career, Fields in The Times 2010 Baseball Player of the Year.
“Just image what he would have done if he didn’t have to pitch and catch all the time,” Jefferson coach Tommy Knight said. “He was a good player when he got here and just got better and better.
“He was the most fun to coach of any kid,” Knight added. “He was always smiling and he had a great attitude. He was not only the best player, but the best to coach too. Usually you have a great player but there’s some issues in the character department, but not with Jake. He’s unbelievable.”
Just don’t tell him that.
The humble Fields credits his career to hard work, discipline and an affinity for the game of baseball.
“I love baseball; my whole family loves baseball,” Fields said. “I really can’t believe that I put up all those numbers. It’s cool, but it wasn’t my goal. My goal was to get better and better, and to do better each game.”
With the help of his future coach at Middle Georgia, Fields has taken that mentality to Ohio, where he moved after graduation to play on a travel team called the Warhawks.
The competition level is high and the camaraderie is great, but it’s the second-to-none learning experience that is benefitting Fields the most.
“It’s something different; it’s been good for me,” he said. “The intensity of baseball is so much higher, it keeps you going.
“Everybody’s hungry and everybody wants more,” he added. “It’s awesome to see other guys have the same desire as me.
”Ultimately, the goal is to play professional baseball, something that runs in Fields’ blood since his older brother Josh currently is in the Seattle Mariners farm system. Jake and Josh grew up pretending to be major leaguers during wiffle ball games in the backyard, and while Josh “had his day” when he was drafted, Jake wasn’t selected in this year’s draft, and he wasn’t surprised.
“I didn’t expect to get drafted, and I think it worked out for the best,” Fields said. “I would be devastated if I never got drafted, but I know if baseball doesn’t work out, then God has something else planned.”
Right now, that plan involves playing in Ohio and preparing for his first season at Middle Georgia. Fields has played first base and some outfield for the Warhawks, and although some have concerns about his natural position, the biggest aspect of his game that needs improvement is his hitting, which might be hard to believe for those who have watch Fields terrorize high school pitchers for the last four years.
“My new coach has been criticizing me and trying to enhance my swing and make it quicker,” Fields said. “It’s a small detail, but he said that I might be able to get away with it in high school, but in the upper levels it will affect you.”
Most players sporting a .561 career average would say otherwise, but Fields welcomes the help.
“It’s tough to hear, but I love to learn,” he said. “I like to know when I’m doing something wrong. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to baseball.”
While Fields might be concerned with his hitting, Knight knows that’s the one area Fields doesn’t need to worry about.
“He’s gonna hit where ever he’s at,” Knight said. “I don’t have any concerns about him swinging the bat.”
If anyone would know it would be Knight, who said there was only one instance in four years when Fields asked for a little reprieve from practice.
“No matter how tired he was, he never said anything,” Knight said. “He asked to skip one bullpen session in four years.
There’s no way to replace him.”
Jefferson fans know that to be true as well, but when looking back on his career, Fields wants everyone to remember him for a different reason.
“I just want them to think of me as a good Christian guy,” Fields said. “I’d love to be known for baseball, but I would like to be remembered for having good character. I don’t like to toot my own horn, but that’s what I’d like to be remembered by.”