Lookout Landing is a baseball site. It’s a baseball site where we unfortunately talk about baseball, almost on a daily basis, when we’re not talking about food and/or handerpants. But even though we talk about baseball a lot, we are not a part of baseball, unless you are one of those existentialists that believes that we are all a part of something, in which case, shut up.
Just last week, on draft day, Lookout Landing became a part of baseball – or, to be more specific, a member of Lookout Landing was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies to be a part of their professional baseball organization. We did it you guys!
Today, we’re going to talk with now world famous Lookout Landing commenter Jake Reppert – drafted 27th round, 804th overall by the Philadelphia Phillies of Pennsylvania, or PPP. Jake has been a member of Lookout Landing since 2012, which we can all agree is his greatest achievement, but now he is also a professional baseball player, and pretty soon he will be starting his career for the Mariners of the National League.
The draft process is something very few get to experience, and even fewer get drafted. So I decided to figuratively sit down with Jake and ask him about the draft experience, so that we could possibly get a glimpse of what it’s like to go through a professional baseball draft.
Cap: Quick Background – How did you get into baseball?
Jake: I didn’t start baseball until I was 11 while living in Salinas, California. This is probably a bit later than most of my peers. My dad (who actually grew up a Phillies fan in Pennsauken, New Jersey) urged me to give a try for one season. I enjoyed it, and stuck with it. I didn’t really find a ton of success anywhere on the field that first season. My second season was a bit different; I was dominant on the mound as I was taller and threw harder than anyone else in the league. From there, my career sort of took off.
What was your greatest baseball achievement?
Other than getting drafted, I would have to say winning a conference championship as a freshman at Bellevue College. That was likely the greatest team I will ever be a part of, with now five players in professional baseball. I didn’t play a huge role in winning that title, but it was a wonderful introduction to college baseball.
How would you say your baseball career went growing up? Like, did you assume you’d get to professional baseball? Did you have doubts? Were you getting good numbers? What’s it like growing up as someone that could, theoretically, become an MLB player?
One offseason when I was 14, I had two separate people tell me I could one day be a first round pick, just based on my stature and dexterity. So from a young age, I felt like the dream was actually quite realistic. As such, I came to a point where I felt weird going to Aquasox games and getting autographs of players because I felt like I would be in their shoes in a short while.
Tell me about the weeks leading up to draft day. Were you scouted often? How did you know? What did you talk about with the Scouts (if anything)? Do you remember how you performed on those days?
My first start of the season was against NAIA powerhouse Lewis-Clark State College. There were a number of scouts in attendance, but not to see me. However, I hit 89 mph and threw well enough that a number of them talked to me in person or called me. My next two starts were in Honolulu and Hayward, California, so I didn’t see any Northwest Area Scouts there. Then, I pitched at Concordia in Portland in front of at least a dozen scouts. It was distracting to have them all sitting behind the plate with radar guns, notebooks, and video cameras. However, I threw 8 shutout innings and received some more phone calls and paperwork to fill out. At this point I knew it was becoming a legitimate possibility.
The scouts mostly asked how my arm felt and if I would want to play professional baseball. It was never anything really specific or in depth. The guys that I talked to all seem like really good people who love their job.
I was working at a golf course in the weeks leading up to the draft, just so I would have something to do. I tried to keep my mind off of it as much as possible because I really didn’t think I would get a chance. I faltered a bit down the stretch and assumed it affected my draft stock.
Before the draft started, how likely did you think it would be that you would be drafted? What were you going to do if you weren’t? Were you feeling confident? Concerned? Ambivalent?
Before the Friday before the draft, I was not expecting anything. I kept telling people that I thought I had a 30/70 chance. But on that Friday, Hank Jones with the Dodgers called and chatted with me for a while, and seemed to indicate that I had a much better chance than I had anticipated. He was the only person to call leading up to the draft, so I assumed I would be a Dodger at some point in time.
The first day of the draft passes. What did you do to keep yourself busy? Were you disappointed when your name wasn’t called? How was that night?
I played golf. I knew it wouldn’t happen on Monday, and likely not Tuesday, so I slept pretty well.
The second day of the draft happens. Same thing. What was going through your mind? Did your feelings or expectations change? Did anyone you know get drafted? Anyone you thought to yourself: "I’m better than that guy!"?
I played golf again. I knew there was an ever so slight possibility of it happening on Tuesday, but wasn’t counting on it. A teammate of mine from summer ball went in the 10th round to the Red Sox. I made sure I congratulated him.
Okay. It’s the final round of the draft. Walk me through your day up until the point you found out that you were drafted.
I woke up around 8 to my dog sized/shaped/smelling alarm clock and took it for a walk. Then I showered and ate breakfast and popped open the draft tracker. Over the next couple hours I saw some familiar names go, but didn’t panic because I fully expected to wait until the 30th round or so. I then drove to Snohomish to have lunch with my mom, who was playing hooky from work. Shortly after sitting down at Blazing Onion, Hilton Richardson with the Phillies called. He was checking to make sure I still wanted to play and then said to keep my phone nearby. At this point I begin getting excited, but try to just focus on other things, like the bacon burger I was served and chatting with my mother.
How did you find out you got drafted? What were your emotions like? Who did you call first? Second?
As we get up to leave the restaurant, my phone rings again. Hilton says "I’ve got a question for you; how does it feel to be a Philadelphia Phillie?" I didn’t know what to say and stammered something unintelligible. My mom began crying (bless her heart) and started texting my dad, who had already seen my name show up. He calls me as well, but was with a client at the time and couldn’t really talk for more than a second. My phone began blowing up with texts, calls, facebook notifications, tweets, whatever. I tried my best to respond to everyone, but that proved to be a tall task. The odd Phillies bloggers started following me, as did apparent fans of the team. All of this made it more real.
What’s next for you?
I have a plane ticket to Tampa for Sunday morning. I will sign my contract and run through a quick physical before beginning ‘mini-camp’ workouts, as Hilton put it. I believe I will be coming out of the pen, at least initially. Presumably, I will be playing for the GCL Phillies, but nothing is set in stone. I’m hopeful I will just be sent to Williamsport, PA to play in the New York-Penn League. Most of my dad’s extended family, as well as my sister, live within a few hours of there. It would be great to be able to have them see me play.
You’ve been an LL member for a while now. You know how we feel about things like stats, ground balls, FIP, Pitch Sequencing/Establish the Fastball, Minor League Diets, etc. Have you thought about if you’re going to integrate stats and these beliefs into the game, or do you think you’re going to be more old school and stick with what’s familiar? Do you have any thoughts on the game that might separate you from your peers?
I think it is much more difficult to enact upon this knowledge than it is to simply understand it. It isn’t particularly easy to do what Brandon McCarthy did. There are certain things I would like to work towards, primarily cutting down on walks. I allowed 30 in 83 innings this year. While not necessarily bad, there is plenty of room for improvement. My strikeout rates have always been solid.
I can cook a little bit. However, I have no clue what my living situation is going to be like in Florida at this point in time. Actually, so little of the future is known to me at this point. But I have had to remind some people that I do not have endless stacks of cash in my immediate future.
You are now officially a professional baseball player, and no matter if you make the majors or not, no one can take that away from you. Has that set in yet? Are you ready for the next steps?
I think it will sink in when I get to wake up and go to the field for the first time. Not having a paper due the following day will make it much more enjoyable and should enhance my focus on the game. This is my job now; the Phillies are my employer (and I hope nobody finds my trolling of them on twitter a few months back). I can keep telling myself that I am a professional baseball player but I probably need to be on the field and wearing the uniform for it to feel real.
You told me in a gamethread that I could nickname you, and I’m leaning towards Ferb, since you kind of look like Ferb from Phineas and Ferb. How does that sound? Keep in mind you don’t actually have a choice in the matter.
I like that show a lot. Works for me.
Here is the list of nicknames given to me in the past, as per my recollection:
- Tall Drink
- Baby Calf
- Stick Bug
- Grim Reaper
Any final words, Jake?
I think I speak for everyone at LL when I say that I wish Jake the absolute best with his new team, and whether you make it to the show or not, you’ll always be living a reality that most of us have dreamt about for years. Congratulations, take great care of yourself, and keep on doing what you’re doing. LL will always be here for you if you need us.