Jaquez makes move back to third
By JOE SANTORO
Special to the Nevada Appeal
RENO ” As far as Tyson Jaquez is concerned, a bad day on a baseball field is better than a good day anywhere else.
“All I care about is being in the lineup every single day,” the Nevada Wolf Pack senior said recently at Peccole Park. “Whatever it takes, I’ll do it. I just want to play and help this team win.”
A year ago Jaquez helped his team win by learning how to be a catcher. He helped fill a gaping hole behind the plate after the loss of senior Konrad Schmidt and responded with his breakout season in Division I, blasting a team-high nine homers.
“He made a tremendous transition,” Pack coach Gary Powers said.
Jaquez, whose business card should read, “Have Glove “Will Travel,” is being asked to make yet another transition this season. The Pack, which opens its season Feb. 20 in Phoenix in a day-night double header against Gonzaga and Missouri, has a huge hole at third base after the departure of senior Jason Rodriguez. That’s why Jaquez has put away his shin guards, mask and big, floppy catcher’s glove and moved back to third base.
“It’s no big deal,” said the 6-foot, 220-pounder, who came to the Wolf Pack in 2007 from Western Nevada College as a third baseman. “I just want to play baseball. Whatever gets me in the lineup is OK with me.”
For Powers, the decision to move Jaquez back to third was an easy one. The Pack, after all, is loaded at catcher with senior Travis Simas, sophomore Matt Langenfeld and talented freshman Michael Turay from Davis, Calif., on the roster. There was nobody on the roster with extensive experience at third at the Division I level.
“It’s about getting our most experienced team on the field as much as possible,” Powers said.
Jaquez is just one of four returning Pack players “the others are Matt Bowman, Shaun Kort and Kevin Rodland ” who started more than half the games last year. The Loyalton (Calif.) High graduate finished the year with a .292 average, 26 RBI and a .575 slugging percentage to go along with those nine homers.
“He worked his tail off last year,” Powers said. “He made himself a pro prospect at catcher and he shortened his swing and made himself a good hitter. He is really a throwback kind of player, a kid who just loves to play. He’s a great teammate, always upbeat and positive. He’ll do whatever you ask him to do.”
Moving the 90 or so feet back to third has been an easy transition for Jaquez.
“I make sure to work out at both positions everyday in practice,” said Jaquez, who still helps the catchers tidy up the area around home plate after practice. “The way I look at it is now I can play multiple positions. I can catch one day and play third the next day, if that’s what they want me to do.”
Jaquez is one of the few legitimate power threats in the Wolf Pack lineup. He hit .692 with 17 homers as a senior at Loyalton High and got drafted late in the 2006 draft by the Detroit Tigers. At Western Nevada his freshman year he hit .313.
If nothing else, the move to third and avoiding the daily wear and tear of catching should keep his bat fresh this year.
“The game is so much slower at third,” Jaquez said. “I didn’t really notice that until I started to catch on a regular basis last year. At catcher, your mind is always busy on every pitch. There is always something to do.”
Jaquez, though, has never had a problem keeping his mind in the game as a third baseman. That upbeat, positive personality Powers talks about first surfaced in Northern Nevada in Carson City at Western Nevada.
“He’s a natural communicator,” Western Nevada coach D.J. Whittemore told the Nevada Appeal in 2006. “He’s a good teammate because he’s a happy person. He’s easy to like.”
That happy, upbeat likeable kid from Loyalton didn’t even disappear when he struggled in 2007. He finished his first Pack season with the lowest batting average on the team (.188), striking out 14 times in just 48 at-bats. It was difficult for Jaquez to find playing time that season with Rodriguez at third and Schmidt and Baker Krukow at catcher so he played in just 27 games with 10 starts.
“That year was mentally challenging for me,” Jaquez said. “It was tough, especially since I was coming off such a good year at Western Nevada. But I learned a lot that year. I learned how to deal with adversity. That’s why last year was easy for me, even when I struggled a little bit. No matter what I went through last year it wasn’t going to be as bad as the year before.”
Jaquez didn’t struggle much a year ago, hitting a three-run homer to beat Fresno State in April and ripping three homers in the Western Athletic Conference tournament in one game to beat San Jose State.
“He really had some big hits for us,” Powers said. “It was nice to see him get his confidence back.”
Jaquez went on to play last summer for the Mat-Sun Miners of the Alaska Baseball League, hitting .261 in 14 games. He played eight games at catcher and was the designated hitter the rest of the time. His only homer of the summer came on the season’s final day.
Last month he was named to the Rivals.com preseason All-WAC team and on Tuesday was named to the WAC coaches’ All-WAC first team as a utility player.
“I guess if I have a future in this game it’s at catcher,” Jaquez said. “I know I’m not the fleetest of foot. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to play somewhere after I leave here. But I’m not worried about that right now. Right now I just want to help this team.”