20 Questions: Mike Jacobs

Ask anyone who follows the Mets' minor league system who the biggest surprise of the 2003 season was and you're likely to get the same answer: Mike Jacobs. Jacobs has diligently worked his way through the Mets system quietly posting solid numbers, until last season when he burst into the spotlight hitting .329 with 17 homeruns and 81 RBI at AA Binghamton. Now he digs in for 20 Questions. (Free Preview of Premium Content)

NYFansonly.com's Premium Message Board subscriber's were asked to craft 20 Questions for a guy who has vaulted himself from a AA platoon at the start of last season to every top 20 Mets' prospect list. This is a free preview of the type of premium content you can expect this season from Ed & NYfansonly.com.

"Jake", a late round(38th) pick out of Grossmont Junior College in 1999, is a lefthanded hitter with a sweet stroke reminiscent of Atlanta Braves' All-Star Chipper Jones. In addition to the 17 HRs he hit last year, Jacobs drove 36 doubles into the gaps of Eastern League stadiums last year, and posted excellent peripheral numbers (.376 OBP, .548 SLG, 28 BB, 87 Ks in 407 ABs), which would indicate his 2004 performance is more an evolution than a fluke, and earned him an invite to Major League Spring Training camp this year.

The 23 year old San Diego native has spent 5 seasons in the Mets' minor league system and should get a shot at playing in Shea Stadium sometime in 2004.

Year

Team

AVG.

AB

Hits

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

2003

Binghamton

.329

407

134

17

81

56

0

28

87

.376

.548

2002

St. Lucie

.238

399

95

10

53

50

2

23

82

.283

.366

2001

Cap City

.278

180

50

2

26

18

0

13

46

.328

.383

2001

Brooklyn

.288

66

19

1

15

12

1

6

11

.364

.409

2000

Cap City

.214

56

12

0

8

1

1

6

19

.290

.304

2000

Kingsport

.270

204

55

7

40

28

6

33

62

.371

.485

1999

Gulfport

.333

147

49

4

30

18

2

14

30

.391

.476



Let's strap on the gear do 20 Questions with Mike Jacobs!

NYF: Is it frustrating to be in an organization were you might be blocked from playing in the big leagues by Mike Piazza, Jason Phillips and Vance Wilson at the major league level and a very highly rated prospect in Justin Huber at the minor league level?

Jacobs: Not so much frustrating, I'm probably going to AAA this year, I can't worry about what those guys are going to do. I don't worry about Huber either. There is no one person that can keep me from playing. I've just got to go out and play my game.

NYF: You've always been on the radar with Cyclones fans (thanks to your mom keeping them up to date on the Brooklyn Cyclones message board on Yahoo), so how important was your time at Coney Island, and how has it prepared you for what lies ahead?

Jacobs: I enjoyed playing there. It was an awesome place to play. There were a lot of neat things...having a lot of fans there, having a lot of media around, after a game winning hit shaking Rudy Giuliani's hand, lots of little things like that. The fan support is great with the message boards and stuff, my Mom gets to find out what I'm doing and see pictures which is really great because she can't always be around and get to see me play.

NYF: How comfortable are you with your defense behind the plate, and how do you feel it is progressing? What kind of drills/exercises do the Mets have you working on?

Jacobs: So far this year I feel really good. I've feel like I've made big improvements in receiving and blocking. The biggest thing I'm working on is my throwing. I feel a lot stronger and like I'm getting much better. The last year and a half or so I felt really good in all those areas. This year I feel like my throwing is much stronger, even just throwing down betwen innings and stuff, I've just felt really strong.

NYF: Was there anything in particular that "clicked" for you during your breakout year in 2003?

Jacobs: I attribute last year to having a lot more steady workout program, and more consistent work habits. You get to a point that you learn more about yourself as a hitter. You find little things that work for you and things that don't and you incorporate the things that work and weed out what doesn't. Using those things and just working on being more consistent in my approach kept me feeling good and strong all year.

NYF: It's been reported that Mike Piazza has taken the Mets catching prospects under his wing during spring training. Have you worked with him at all this spring, and what kind advice has he given you?

Jacobs: He is actually pretty good about that. He's definitely not intimidating at all and makes you feel like you can go up and ask him questions. He's more vocal about things than about showing you stuff. He's big on little things, situational things and keeping you thinking about that stuff.

NYF: What positions did you play in college/amature ball? Do you feel comfortable playing those positions now? Where have you played besides catcher since your rookie season in pro ball? Have the Mets approached you about a possible position change?

Jacobs: My whole life since t-ball I've been behind the plate. I wasn't very good catcher in HS, got a little better in junior college. Until I started playing pro ball no one ever really taught me to catch. I played some first base. I could play first base. I played some in St. Lucie and in big league camp. I'm pretty much a catcher/firstbaseman.

NYF: Which of the guys in the Mets system that you've played with do you consider to be your closest friends beyond just being teammates?

Jacobs: Danny Garcia is definitely a friend off the field. Jason Saenz is another great guy. I just met Royce Ring when was traded here in the middle of last season. He also lives in San Diego. We spent some time Jet-Skiing this offseason which was real cool. Bob Keppel is a good guy, too. Obviously, I could go on and on, most of the guys are guys I consider friends.

NYF: What elements of your game do feel you need to improve on most to be ready for big league play?

Jacobs: Defense. I've always been able to hit, and hopefully I always will. Mainly I think I just need to keep on working on just staying tight behind the plate. If I can catch and throw and block I'll be okay.

NYF: Which Mets prospect that you've played with do you feel is a big league caliber player that doesn't get the hype of some of the top prospects?

Jacobs: Rodney Nye. He's a hard worker, he hustles, he's an all around good guy. If you look at the numbers he's put up...he just needs to get an opportunity.

NYF: So far you have hit very impressively in Spring Training. What is the biggest difference you see in Major League pitching versus the AA pitching you saw last season?

Jacobs: The biggest difference is they're able to throw strikes any count, any pitch...and guys being able to put people away. The pitchers locate better and the pitches have more movement, but the biggest difference is they have a plan and know how to execute it to get guys out.

NYF: Having caught in Binghamton last year and been in ML camp this spring you obviously have caught some of the Mets top pitching prospects. What are your impressions of the guys you've caught, particularly Bob Keppel and Scott Kazmir?

Jacobs: Keppel has good stuff, obviously he threw a no hitter this year, you have to have great stuff to throw a no hitter. He's got a good fast ball and two seamer. He gets really excited on the mound, really into the game. Sometimes I have to go out just to calm him down. He's got three or four pitches that are plus pitches. He's not afraid of contact. He knows how to pitch. He knows how to get guys out without feeling like he has to blow people away. I've only caught Kazmir once, he has great stuff too, but I haven't caught him as much as I have Kepp.

NYF: What kind of instruction and how much time have you gotten to spend picking Gary Carter's brain?

Jacobs: Gary Carter is one of the guys that really got me receiving the ball well. He's helped me with my setup and throwing. He really makes you feel like you can do this. I didn't get to see too much of him as a player when i was a kid, but just seeing the pride that he takes in teaching us, makes me want to work harder and take that kind of pride in myself.

NYF: Is it difficult to get past being a baseball fan when you're learning from people like Carter and Mike Piazza without saying to yourself, "Hey...that's freakin' Mike Piazza!"?

Jacobs: (laughs) Not so much anymore. It was a lot more like that my first two big league camps. In my first camp I got to pinch hit against the Braves and I got a single. I was definitely star struck seeing Sheffield and Chipper Jones out there and being on the same field as them, cause I was a Braves fan when I was a kid. I was definitely star struck. But now I feel more like I belong. It kind of fades as you play more and start to feel like, hey, I belong out here.

NYF: When you're in a position like you are with Justin Huber where you are both teammates and competitors for the same job, how do you balance sharing knowledge and looking out for your own self-interests?

Jacobs: Just like any other teammate we talk about things. We never hold anything back like that. I still have to go out and do my thing whether he's there or not. Like I said earlier there is no one playeer that is going to block me from reaching the big leagues. I don't feel any added pressure because he's highly thought of. I root for him and I'm happy when he goes out there and plays great.

NYF: Which coaches have been most helpful to you in developing both as a person and a player as you've worked your way through the Mets' organization?

Jacobs: Definitely Edgar Alfonzo. He's been with me for four years. I'm really kind of bummed he's not going to be in AAA with me. He's like my second Dad. He's always been there. He's the one I call when I'm struggling, even if I'm going bad behind the plate. I have a really close relationship with him. He's the one guy I really trust and confide in. I probably wouldn't be half as good as I am now without him.

NYF: Other than yourself, bottom of the ninth, World Series, two out, tying and winning runs on second and third, which of your fellow Mets prospects would you want to see at the plate?

Jacobs: I might have to say Ron Acuna. He's one of the best hitters I've seen. Doesn't strikeout a lot. Goes the other way well. He's the kind of guy I'd want up in that situation. He's one of those guys that flies beneath the radar, but he hits like .300 every year. He doesn't really hit for power, but he's just a really great hitter in that kind of situation.

NYF: Who were your favorite teams and players as a kid? Is there anyone in particular you patterned your game after?

Jacobs: The Braves. I enjoy watching them. I patterned my hitting after Chipper Jones. I always thought he looked like a player. I definitely patterned myself after him, I even tap like he does. When he wore his socks up, so did I, when he wore them down I did, too. He's just the guy that I thought really looked like a player at the plate.

NYF: Is there a particular player with the Mets right now that you have particular respect for and look to as a role model?

Jacobs: Vance Wilson. I look up to him a lot. Because he is one of the hardest working guys and could probably be starting with another team. Like myself he was a late pick and he made it. He's a great leader. He's gotten on me before for not doing things at full out effort, and I really respect him for that. I have nothing but tremendous respect for that guy. I admire him a lot.

NYF: What's the CD in your CD player right now, and what are the early favorites for your 2004 walk-up music?

Jacobs: A mix CD with some rap and some alternative stuff. As for walk up songs...that 50cent song... (singing) "If I can't do it, it can't be done." that's what I had last year...I'm not thinking about changing too much from last year if I can help it. Everything I did seemed to work okay for me.

NYF: When do you expect Mike Jacobs to make his first appearance at Shea Stadium and what do you envision your role being?

Jacobs: Sometime this year hopefully, and probably I'll be a guy who plays in some day games after night games. (laughs) I don't know when. Hopefully just to get there and help them win and stay there.

We would like to thank Mike Jacobs for taking the time to share his thoughts and experiences with our readers. Blake McGinley is up next for 20 questions. For this piece, ALL message board posters at NYF can submit questions for Blake McGinley on our main forum, but the interview itself will be premium. All subsequent "20 Question" interviews will have questions submitted by NYF Club Members on our premium forum and all the interviews will be posted exclusively for NYF Club Members.

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