Hager Striving to Be the Best

After a slow start, Hot Rods shortstop Jake Hager has come on strong in the season's second half. The 19-year-old entered the season with high expectations and has shown steady improvement on the diamond all year. Currently leading the team in RBI, Hager credits his early season struggles with helping him get back to basics and has set the bar very high for himself as his career progresses.

Getting back to basics has been the key to success for Bowling Green's Jake Hager.

The 19-year old shortstop was the youngest player in full-season baseball in the Rays organization entering the 2012 season, but despite his age, he has been the top run-producer for the Hot Rods this season.

Hager is currently hitting .282/.341/.403 with seven home runs, 17 doubles and 64 RBI.

Driving in runs has been one of Hager's specialties this season, as he is hitting .315 with runners on and .350 with runners in scoring position.

"Once I see the runners on, I just want to get them in," Hager said of his success at driving in runners. "If we have a chance to take the lead, then I want to be that guy."

But that success hasn't been there all season for Hager. He hit a slight bump in the road early this season, hitting only .200 in the month of April.

"Going through that struggle I was over thinking everything," Hager said of his early season slump.

The tides began to turn in May when he hit for a .275 average and then again in June when Hager went off by hitting a scorching .366. Hager said after his slump in April he went back to his old way of swinging the bat.

"I went back to my old stance and things started working out for me," Hager said.

The stance adjustment along with staying relaxed at the plate has proven to be effective and Hager became the third player in franchise history to record five hits in one game on June 29th against the Lansing Lugnuts.

Manager Brady Williams talked about Hager becoming a more selective hitter while still staying aggressive and never was this more evident than in June when Hager walked ten times while striking out just seven times.

"With my stance more upright, I can see the ball way better," Hager said.

During the offseason and spring training Hager focused on his throwing motion when making plays from shortstop. He said now it has become a natural motion.

"My arm strength is all the way up there and I feel good," Hager said of his defensive game. "I always think the ball is going to be hit to me. I'm just relaxed out there."

Hager has ten stolen bases on the season flashing good speed, but he also has been caught stealing 11 times. Hager was a good base runner in high school but it is minor adjustments, such as timing, he needs to work on to be successful at it in professional baseball.

The Nevada native was one of many Hot Rods who had a solid argument for selection to the Midwest All-Star Game but was not chosen.

"It would have been awesome to make the All-Star game," Hager said. "I understand I had that little slump in the beginning in the year, but I'm happy I was in that slump because it made me realize I am who I am and I can get out of it."

Hager's accomplishments date back to high school at Sierra Vista High School in Spring Valley, NV where he was selected as the Gatorade Nevada Baseball Player of the Year after he hit .533 with 11 home runs and 54 RBI.

During high school Hager committed to Arizona State University, but after being selected 32nd-overall in the first round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays, Hager, like many first-round draft picks, chose to play professional baseball instead of college baseball.

"I wanted to pursue my dream quick," Hager said of his decision to play professional baseball.

Hager's first year of full-season baseball in Bowling Green has been a great learning opportunity, but the shortstop has set some lofty goals for himself in the future.

"It's been a blast," Hager said about playing in Bowling Green Ballpark. "I'll do anything I can to help the team win."

"I want to be the best shortstop to ever play the game."

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