Have you ever seen one of those sports movies where your regular “Joe Everyman” gets noticed doing something completely innocuous that somehow translates into a perfect professional-level skill?
Sure you have.
Our man Joe is usually doing something like tossing potatoes in the back of grocery store, running extraordinarily fast to catch a shoplifter or, my personal favorite, throwing back a home run ball from the Wrigley Field bleachers all the way back to home plate. It happens in ‘Invincible’, it happens in ‘Trouble with the Curve’, it happens in ‘The Replacements’ and it happens in ‘Rookie of the Year’, but there’s one place it doesn’t happen: real life.
Let me introduce you to Giants minor league reliever Jake Smith – who comes to us straight out of Hollywood. Having pitched in both high school and college, Smith never really came across anyone’s radar. In an environment where nearly every 16-year-old with the slightest chance at a big league future is scouted, things weren’t looking good for our young protagonist. So one day, he decided to get a job as a member of the grounds crew for the Giants farm team in Low-Augusta and – like Matt Damon’s janitorial job in ‘Good Will Hunting’ – that’s when everything changed.
While mowing the lawn and dragging the infield, Felipe Alou – and some other Giants officials – caught a glimpse of him throwing. After some advice, adjustments, and hard work, the Giants then selected him in the 48th round of the 2011 MLB draft.
That could have been story enough, but it doesn’t end there.
Despite the overwhelming odds against him, Jake Smith worked his way up to A+ ball last season, where he finished with a 2.35 ERA over 84.1 innings. Even more impressive/exciting/plot thickening: he was recently added to the Giants 40-man roster and is heading to AA in 2016. As a member of the 40-man, he actually stands a legitimate chance of making it to the majors sometime in next few years and that would be the perfect ending to this story.
I’m not a Giants fan, but I’ll be rooting for Jake Smith* in 2016. For much more on his incredible story, check out this Mercury News article.
*Couldn’t the writers have come up with a better name? “Jake Smith” sounds way too made up.