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Destined to be a Dodger: The Jacob Amaya story

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For Jacob Amaya, this wasn’t a typical Wednesday morning.

It started off like any other day. He woke up around ten o’clock, and went to turn on his PS4 and play some video games. Little did he know, he was about to receive a phone call that would change his life forever, and fulfill a lifelong dream.

“My best friend called me and said I was drafted by the Dodgers,” Amaya said. “I didn’t believe him. He told me to go on Twitter. I log on, and the first thing I saw was my name and who I got drafted by. Within a 10 minute span my whole family was celebrating.”

For Amaya, he became the second member of his family to be selected by the Dodgers. His grandfather, Frank Amaya, also a shortstop, was in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization starting in 1955. He spent three years in the Class C Pioneer League, playing for the Great Falls Electrics.

“It was amazing when I got drafted by the Dodgers,” Amaya said. “My grandpa was always watching the Dodgers games when I got home. To follow in his footsteps. Growing up it was always him and my dad, giving me knowledge about the game.”

Amaya’s grandfather passed away in 2016, one year before Amaya would get drafted by the Dodgers. Wishing his grandfather were still here today, Jacob uses this as extra motivation.

“When he passed away, it set a fuel for me. I knew he wanted me to put on the jersey that he put on, and it was an honor.”

Amaya started his high school career playing at Northview High School in Covina. He transferred for his junior season to South Hills High School in West Covina, which is less than 25 miles away from Dodger Stadium. Though he really put his name in the spotlight his junior season, the offers starting coming in when he was only a freshman.

“I got my first offer when I was a freshman, that’s when things started to kick in,” he said. “I was only 14 years old and scouts were already coming out to see me. I talked with my grandpa and my dad about it. There was obviously hard work that had to be put in.”

As a junior, Amaya really began to catch the eyes of scouts. He led his team to a CIF Southern Section championship victory, hitting .385 with an on-base percentage of .455. He improved even more for his senior campaign. In his final year, he increased his number of hits, runs batted in, runs scored, as well as home runs. He was also a force to be reckoned with on the base paths, going 14-for-14 in stolen bases.

His numbers didn’t go unnoticed, as he was drafted in the 11th round, 340th overall, in the 2017 MLB draft. Though being drafted fulfilled a lifelong dream, Amaya had a difficult decision to make. Sign a minor-league contract with a $247,500 bonus or continue playing baseball in college.

Amaya was committed to play baseball at Cal State Fullerton. To him, the decision wasn’t difficult at all.

“Playing professionally was something I had dreamed about since I was a kid,” Amaya said. “I didn’t go high, but it was my dream, so I rolled with it. Things turned out good so far.”

Instead of heading to Fullerton, Amaya headed to Arizona, where he began his professional playing career. Going from high school to professional ball was a tough transition that Jacob had to quickly adapt to.

“It was way different,” said Amaya. “In high school, guys were throwing 85, here they were throwing in the 90’s. Guys know how to spin it more, they locate way better, they throw way harder. It was a huge transition.”

In 34 games, Amaya hit .254/.364/.356. He had 30 hits, scored 17 runs and had 19 walks. On June 14, he was assigned to the Ogden Raptors, the short-season rookie affiliate. It was there that Jacob quickly established himself as one of the best hitters on the team.

While with the Raptors, Amaya hit .346/.465/.535 with an OPS of 1.000. He also stole 11 bases.

“The key was trying to do everything I needed to do the day before,” Amaya said of his success with Ogden. “If I played well one game, I would try to remember what I did that day for the next game. I felt like my head was always in the right spot. If I did something bad, I would try to move on and forget about it and focus on the next day.”

This worked for Amaya, as he was named to the Pioneer League mid-season all-star team. He wouldn’t play in the game, because he found himself getting promoted yet again. This time, to the Great Lakes Loons.

I didn’t expect to move up at all during the season,” Amaya said. “Getting called up was an honor for me.”

His time at Ogden was short-lived, only appearing in 32 games. Jacob appeared in 27 games for the Loons, and saw a decline in his numbers. He hit .265, and had an OPS of only .696. Though he wasn’t hitting the ball as much as he was in Ogden, he did something that is very rare in today’s game.

Amaya had more walks than strikeouts.

While with the Loons, Amaya walked 20 times, compared to his 18 strikeouts. On the year between the two affiliates, he had 47 walks to go along with 47 strikeouts. He posted a .432 on-base percentage, which led Dodgers minor leaguers with at least 50 games played. Thanks to his walks, he ranked 17th in on-base percentage among minor leaguers in the U.S. with at least 50 games played.

For Amaya, he’s always had a great eye at the plate. “In high school, I wouldn’t strike out that much,” he said. “I started covering the plate pretty well. I was able to figure out what pitches they were throwing me, where they’d throw it. With different situations and men on base I would figure that out.”

“I started crowding the plate, started getting off the plate. To try and have them pitch me in more, or back off the plate if they were pitching me in. When I was talking to hitting coaches they would tell me that I was doing a good job of covering the plate well.”

Within one year, Amaya already had 93 games of minor league baseball under his belt. He hit .292 with 100 hits and had an on-base percentage of .409.

After playing in three different leagues, Amaya said his biggest takeaway was being able to move on. “Just forget,” he said. “There’s a lot of ups and downs. Don’t take anything for granted. Any information coming in from coaches, take everything in. There’s going to be bad games during the season, forget what happened that day and focus on the next game.”

It’s unclear yet on where Amaya will begin the 2019 season. He could be back playing for the Loons, or he could be promoted to play High-A ball for the Quakes. For him, all that’s on his mind is improving his game.

“Wherever I end up is where I end up,” he said. “Take what I learned from my first season in Arizona and the minors and try and go beyond that. Take what I learned and try to apply that for next season.”

For Jacob, getting promoted to Rancho Cucamonga will be a little more special. He’d be playing about 20 miles from where he played his high school ball. With the potential of playing in front of friends and family, Amaya uses that as extra motivation.

“I got some goals to achieve in the offseason so I can get there. To be able to play in front of my family would be great.”

Regardless of where he begins the season, nothing will get in the way of Jacob Amaya reaching the big leagues and fulfilling his lifelong dream. “I’m coming,” he said. “That was the plan. Just know that I’m coming and I have plans for the Dodgers. Hopefully I can get there.”