Spring has come early for Victoria’s Jesse Hodges, but it’s been a long winter.
This week the 18-year-old baseball player heads to Arizona for spring training as a member of the Chicago Cubs.
It’s the next step in a career that took off with the swing of a bat last August. Hodges went from being undrafted and bound for junior college to being one of the hottest unsigned prospects, and was snapped up by the Cubs. Now he’s looking to grab a spot with one of the Cubs’ many minor league organizations.
“I’ve spent the winter just playing baseball and getting myself stronger, in the gym and indoor hitting. I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life.”
At camp he will be one of the few prospects that wasn’t drafted – as he was passed over in the 2012 MLB draft in June. It was a down time for Hodges, who had reason to believe he’d be picked midway through the draft.
But some things have a way of working themselves out.
Three months later, Hodges rectified his draft situation with a clutch home run at the 18-and-under World Baseball Championship in Seoul, South Korea. Hodges was slotted ninth in the batting order when he slugged a two-run, two-out home run that helped Canada defeat Japan.
“Hitting that home run changed the tournament for me, it got me rolling. Then to put pen to paper, it had me even more confident,” Hodges said.
After the home run he was bumped from ninth up to sixth in the batting order. He kept hitting the ball, and was moved into the cleanup spot for the semifinal and championship games. Canada lost in the final to U.S.A. but Hodges finished the world championships as the leading hitter with a .484 average, the most hits with 15, highest total bases with 22, and was tied for second in doubles.
“Confidence and belief in my game is what I have so much of going into spring training.”
Hodges had played his premier midget career as a shortstop with the Victoria Mariners of the B.C. Premier Baseball League the past three seasons, and was part of the M’s 2010 B.C. championship. He played third for Team Canada and his transition was seamless, as he made the World Championships’ All World team and, was signed as a third basemen by the Cubs.
“The scouts were talking to my parents at the world championships, and I could see them. I asked my parents, ‘who were you talking to?’ but they didn’t want to tell me. Finally they did, and it was the Cubs.”
He signed the deal before the tournament was over. Until that moment, the Lambrick Park secondary grad was set to play for Grayson Junior College in Texas.
Now he is among a smaller number of Cubs recruits getting a jump on spring training. Hodges is already familiar with wearing Cubs blue, having attended instructional league in the fall, and will have a couple of weeks to warm up before the “big leaguers” show up. They’re all going to be there, but don’t expect to see Hodges on ESPN any time soon.
“The realistic goal for this year is to make a low-A (single-A) team. The ultimate goal is the big leagues.”