The Lake County Captains are in the midst of a tight playoff race right at the end of this 2012 season. Highly touted hitters such as Francisco Lindor, Alex Lavisky and Luigi Rodriguez are expected to lead the way now. But the key to the Captains second half playoff run might be the little talked about first basemen, Jerrud Sabourin, the kind of story that has been written about Sabourin his entire life.
After winning two championships at Torrey Pines High School in San Diego, California, Sabourin says he wasn’t a highly sought after player, despite being in a great area for college baseball.
“IU (Indiana University) saw me play out in California and they asked me to come walk on to the team”, Sabourin said of how he wound up in the Hoosier state after playing in California.
All Sabourin ended up doing is leaving Indiana as the all-time hits leader. After walking on to the team, he rapped 88 hits his freshman year and followed that up with 85 hits his sophomore year. He wound up with 332 hits upon graduating in in 2011, despite having a ‘down year’ of 64 hits his senior year.
Despite the hits record at IU, Sabourin wasn’t picked up by an MLB after finishing his college career.
“I thought I was going to get taken after my junior year. They were telling me 10th-20th round. My senior year wasn’t as good but I thought someone would take a flier on me. I was definitely disappointed but the Indians saw something in me and took a chance”, Sabourin said of going under the radar four years after doing the same thing after high school.
It wouldn’t be the first trip back to the mid-west for Sabourin. His family is from Michigan, actually living close to where the Great Lakes Loons play, the Los Angeles Dodgers Midwest League affiliate, in Midland, Michigan.
While Sabourin didn’t need to get adjusted to life in the mid-west, he was able to adjust to pro ball thanks to playing in the Northwoods League in Minnesota, a place that has been kind to the Indians organization, grooming Captains OF Jordan Smith and 2012 draft pick, Joe Sever.
“I played travel ball in San Diego, but the competition in the Northwoods League was much better. If you don’t get to play with a wood bat all year, it’s hard to get consistency without reps”, Sabourin said of his time with the Madison Mallards.
Sabourin’s entire baseball career has been about adjusting; he wound up having an extremely successful college career after not being a high recruit. Last season at Mahoning Valley, Sabourin hit .225 with 40 strikeouts and 19 walks.
Coming into August 21st, Sabourin is hitting .304 and has 67 strikeouts compared to 46 walks, helping his .375 OBP.
“Last year I got to pull happy. This year I’ve tried to take the ball the other way now and just take the ball where it’s pitched”, Sabourin said of the adjustments this year that got him hitting in the middle of the Captains order after starting the year hitting 8th.
One thing that Sabourin doesn’t need much adjusting to, is his defense. He had a .992 fielding percentage his senior year, making just four errors.
This year, Baseball America named him the best defensive first basemen in the Midwest League, and Captains broadcaster Tim O’Brien first mentioned Sabourin’s glove as the thing he liked about him most.
“Defense is something that always came natural to me. I got to pro ball and have done a good job on working with Indians infield coordinator, Travis Fryman, on moving left to right and attacking groundball”, Sabourin says of his impeccable defense this year. He made a great, catcher type block of a ball at first base with a 3-2 Captains lead, and wound up diving and tagging the runner out to seal the win.
One person Sabourin probably doesn’t defensive wouldn’t want defensive help from his college roommates uncle, Chuck Knoblauch. His senior year at IU, Sabourin roomed with Trace Knoblauch, the former Twins and Yankee’s star second basemen.
“He came and visited twice I think but I never got to talk to him in person, that was kind of disappointing.”
While Sabourin wasn’t highly sought after to play baseball for any college or pro team, he doesn’t often feel the need to take the “me against the world” mentality to prove people wrong.
“In the off-season during workouts I kind of use that to motivate myself. But not during the games. I try to just keep myself calm out there.”
Sabourin’s biggest regret though, not going to the Indiana-Kentucky game that ended in a game winning shot for Indiana.
“I was in my apartment, debating on going or not. I figured it was against Kentucky and we had no shot. I really regret that one”.
Right now, he might be making 29 other teams regret not taking the chance on him.
“I’m just given the same chance as anyone else”, says Sabourin, who doesn’t let being under valued many baseball eyes, get to him.
He may not be undervalued much longer.