When many casual Hurricane baseball fans think of who would be leading the team in batting average thus far, names like Ryan Braun or Jim Burt would likely come to mind. This year, however, an unknown youngster has surprisingly set the pace for the rest of the team’s sluggers.
Freshman Jon Jay has quietly earned the title with a .390 average after 27 games. Jay has played an integral role in leading the ‘Canes to a 22-5 record.
The Miami native out of Christopher Columbus High School impressed Head Coach Jim Morris so much during fall practice that he was inserted into the starting lineup on opening night against the Florida Gators.
“It was a great feeling to start opening night,” Jay said. “That’s what I had been working hard for, so it was nice to see it pay off.”
Ranked in the top five, playing the rival Florida Gators, and having just about everyone back from last year’s squad, the odds of a freshman starting would normally be pretty slim. But Jay was prepared for it.
“Coming in here, I knew ahead of time [that the team was the same] so I prepared myself for that,” Jay said. “I just came in here trying to contribute as much as possible.”
Jay had a tough start to the season, getting only two hits in his first 11 at-bats, but since then Jay has been red hot. His teammates made sure the freshman kept his head up when he was struggling.
“The guys told me to have fun out there,” Jay said. “[They said] it’s the same game that I’ve been playing since I’m 10 years old and all I had to do was get used to the atmosphere and I would be fine.”
Like many Miami natives, Jay knew that playing at Mark Light Field was where he wanted to be. He had many offers from other schools, but he decided to follow his dream and play for the Hurricanes.
“This season has been a lot of fun,” Jay said. “It’s been overwhelming at times, but it’s everything that I imagined it would be.”
The next few weeks will be a true test for Jay and the rest of his teammates as the Hurricanes hit their toughest part of their schedule with consecutive trips to Georgia Tech and Florida State.
Jay has proven time and time again that he not only belongs in the Miami lineup, but at the first or second spot in the batting order. He makes an already dangerous lineup even more potent as he hits in front of Burt and Brian Barton.
Jay’s success has been critical for the Hurricanes, especially since there have been key injuries to a number of the team’s outfielders throughout the season. Injuries to Danny and Paco Figueroa and Barton at different points in the season gave Jay the chance to shine, and he has taken full advantage of his opportunity.
“Jon Jay has been great for us this year,” Morris said. “He’s a great kid who always has that smile on his face. If we had a MVP award for fall practice, it would have been given to him.”
Doug Kroll can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org