"When something bad happens, it's unfortunate but you can't stay upset forever," says Jason King who sounds older and wiser beyond his 22 years. "Life is going to go on and I learned that at a pretty early age with everything that happened with my mom in high school. Life's not going to stop if something bad happens to you and if you look around, bad stuff happens to everybody so it's all in how you respond to it."
King is certainly familiar with having to respond to difficulty. Less than three years after the loss of his mother he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow of his throwing arm, underwent Tommy John surgery and missed his 2010 college season at Kansas State. Having yet again to deal with an incredible misfortune, King brought it upon himself to look at is as another obstacle to conquer.
"I looked at it as another challenge and that getting through it was going to make me more prepared to handle the next problem in life, whatever it might be. If you look at it like that and get the job done every day in rehab, then it's really just like going out and preparing for a game."
With this frame of mind, King returned to the Kansas State lineup the following season as the team's everyday third baseman and led the Wildcats with a .326 batting average while driving in a team-high 59 RBI.
Racking up these kinds of numbers, King was definitely on the radar of various major league clubs as was evident in the fact that he was originally drafted in 2007 by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 48th round. But choosing to forgo professional baseball at that time, King cites not being ready as his main reason to play in the college ranks.
"Obviously, I wasn't ready," says King. "I got drafted really, really late and being drafted so late kind of showed me that they [the St. Louis Cardinals] weren't ready to commit to me in the way that I would have wanted."
His decision to play in college paid its dividends as he honed his skills against tough competition that the Big 12 conference offered. "College really taught me how much I can handle. Every day was running, lifting, going to school, going to practice and during the season, going to the field for a game. Being able to do all of that at the same time really made me realize what I'm capable of."
And what he was capable of was a fourth round selection in the 2011 draft by the Detroit Tigers.
"I was really happy. I was in the baseball field with all my friends and some of my coaches when I found out and it was just an honor that somebody thought that highly of me. I kept thinking about how lucky I was that someone believed in me that much."
The Tigers had seen him come back from Tommy John surgery and believed he was capable of throwing the ball with an arm that was still strong. But it wasn't long until King was staring trouble in the face once again. 53 games into his first professional season in the New York-Penn league for the Connecticut Tigers, he tore the ACL in his knee on a play at first base. The injury cut short his rookie season – one in which he was batting .251 with six home runs and 31 RBI – and marked the beginning of a nearly year-long recovery.
But again, King took the injury head on and worked feverishly to get himself back on the field approaching his latest setback like another hill to climb. "You're preparing your body to come back to play so it's really just like a change of pace and a little something different."
Just like he set out to do for a second time following injury, King returned to the field and made his debut for the West Michigan Whitecaps on May 2 going 1-for-4 at the plate with a double, a walk and two runs scored. And just like his demeanor and attitude toward everything else that he's gone through in life, he was simply happy and grateful to be right where he was.
"It was awesome to be back out there. This [Fifth Third Ballpark] is an incredible facility, the weather's been decent and I just feel really lucky that I got here."
The Whitecaps feel lucky to have him on their team as well. A switch hitter, a skill his dad taught him and helped him develop at an early age, King has shown power at both sides of the plate throughout his career and has displayed the ability to flash the leather out in the field.
So not only do the ‘Caps boast a talented player on their roster, but also know they have a player in King who won't shy away from difficult times both on and away from the ball field. It's going to take a lot more than an injury or a hitting slump to slow their third baseman down. Jason King is a player who won't look back but rather will continue looking forward.
"You can be negative, let the bad things slow you down and stop all your goals or you can move past it."
I think we all know in what direction he'll keep heading.