Jake Hager was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 1st round of the 2011 draft. Since the draft, Hager has played in a total of 161 games, over the course of two successful seasons, batting a combined .277 with 14 home runs and 89 RBI’s.
Last season alone, Hager batted .281 with 10 home runs and 72 RBI’s, including an OBP of .345, with Single-A Bowling Green. In addition to his consistency at the plate, Hager stole a total of 17 bases, showing his ability to steal a base if necessary–speed being one of the main things Hager plans to work on in the coming season.
If Hager can continue to produce the same kind of numbers, combined with his incredible work ethic, he should be able to make it to the major leagues fairly quickly. He certainly has the talent, but it will come down to whether he can keep up the performance at the plate, over the next few years. However, looking back at Hager’s professional career thus far, and even into High School, that shouldn’t be a problem, as posting great stats seems to be his specialty.
Jake Hager–prospect in the Rays organization–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:
1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?
I started playing ball when I was about 5 years [old]. My dad inspired to me to play the game. He always brought me outside to play catch or swing the bat. Once we started tee ball I loved it ever since. Best decision I have ever made.
2.) Who was your favorite player growing up? Why?
My favorite player growing was Cal Ripken Jr. He was my favorite player because of how humble he was and how much he loved to play the game. He was a great all around player and really fun to watch.
3.) You were drafted by the Rays in the 1st round of the 2011 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?
The draft process was amazing. Seeing all the scouts from each team come to your house and talk about your future was a lot of fun. The Rays ending up taking [me] which I had a great feeling they were because they were scouting me pretty heavy. Then on draft day–I was at my house with all of my friends and family–they called me before the draft started and said they were going to take me at 31. Then at the 30th pick they called my dad saying they were taking me at 32. We all went crazy and then once Bud [Selig] said my name it was the greatest feeling in the world.
4.) Being drafted out of high school, what’s the biggest difference you noticed between that and pro ball in your first few games, in 2011?
The biggest difference for me was the speed of the game–ten times faster than high school ball. Seeing 90-94 everyday was a huge difference, and the ball coming off every bat was just way different!
5.) What do you feel went well in 2012? What do you feel you need to work on for 2013?
Once I got my swing and my new stance down, everything started going great from there. Seeing the ball a lot better and swinging at better pitches helped me out a lot. I feel like [for] 2013 I just need to work on my speed more than anything. I am always working on my swing and defense, but I’m going to concentrate more on my speed.
6.) Is there any player you model your game after, or do you just try to do your own thing?
I honestly just try to do my own thing. I don’t worry about who I should be like or anything, I just want to be the player I can be.
7.) When’s the first time someone asked for your autograph? Oddest thing you’ve ever signed?
The first time somebody asked for my autograph was my best friend’s little cousin, when I was high school. That was the first ever ball I had signed. The oddest thing I have ever signed is [a] drawn picture of me in a Rays outfit!
8.) Favorite food?
My favorite would have to be grilled chicken right off the grill.
9.) Favorite TV show?
My favorite TV show is ‘Dexter’.
10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?
To always work hard and don’t let anybody get in the way of your dream. Stay humble and work for your dream.
Big thanks to Jake Hager for taking the time to answer my questions.
You can follow him on twitter: @JakeHager1