Jaime Bubela: For the Love of the Game

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Hailing from Houston, Texas, Missions center fielder Jaime Bubela enjoys many of the same things his fellow statesmen do, including hunting, fishing and of course, baseball.

"I enjoy being out on the lake, doing stuff like that. I just like being outside, I guess," Bubela said. "I just really love playing the game (of baseball). I enjoy being around the guys and the competition. That's why I come back to it and there's really nothing I'd rather be doing."

The true Texan loves the sport enough to battle back from knee surgery in 2004 to once again take the field at full-force, now in his fifth season of professional baseball and third with the Missions.

Before the injury, the outfielder was cruising just fine through the Mariners' farm system, making it to San Antonio in his third year while cementing a .291 career-average. But after winning a Texas League championship in 2003, Bubela hyper-extended his knee during workouts the following off-season and missed the first three months of the 2004 campaign.

"That was definitely disappointing. I felt like the year I had in 2003 was good enough to move up a level, and then I got hurt," Bubela said. "That set me back, but hopefully I can get back on track now."

While wearing a knee brace and at times admitting to being less than full-strength, the 26-year-old finished the season hitting a career-low .223 with 15 RBI, but believes the trials he went through have only better set him up for success this year.

"He came back sooner than expected," said Missions manager Dave Brundage. "That was for himself. I didn't evaluate him last year, but we expect a lot from his this season."

This year, as the Missions have struggled through a rollercoaster season, so too has Bubela, hitting .256 with 27 RBI and 53 strikeouts. The key aspect, he says, is finally regaining his confidence and athleticism, the latter of which has enabled the speedy base runner to steal 12 bags this season.

"Everyday, I'm coming to the park and I feel good," Bubela said. "My knee feels as good as ever. There's an adjustment period when you come back. You've first got to get back your confidence and realize the knee is going to be fine. It's almost a rehabilitation process in itself."

Brundage has seen the difference too, watching a self-assured ball player go out there night in and night out in what could prove the season that determines Bubela's future with Seattle.

"He's worked hard to get back here," Brundage said. "This is an important year for him."

Bubela acknowledged that both he and the team have under-performed at times this season, but is hoping for a steadier attack as the Missions head into the final stretch of the first half-season.

"The team and I have been really inconsistent," Bubela said. "We'll win five and lose four. We'll win six and lose four. Once we get it together and figure it out, we'll be a good team."

If Bubela, who turned 27 on June 6, wishes to continue the upward mobility he enjoyed earlier in his career, he'll have to quickly regain the form that allowed him to reach at least 25 doubles and 61 RBI through each of his first three seasons with the organization.

"This is a great organization, all the way up. I've played with many guys who've come from other places and I've never heard anyone say Seattle's system isn't a good one," Bubela said. "They all say it is better than where they came from, and I'm fortunate to be here as well."

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