Jake Faggart transferring to Catawba
By Mike London
Catawba baseball coach Jim Gantt expects to unveil a new outfield in 2009, and Appalachian State transfer Jake Faggart will likely be in the mix.
All-America center fielder David Thomas and steady left fielder Matt Kepley have graduated.
All-America junior right fielder Jerry Sands has likely blasted his last tape-measure bomb at Newman Park.
He should be drafted this week.
Who will replace Thomas and Sands?
No one. Thomas and Sands can’t be replaced, but someone still has to try.
Reserve outfielders Zeb Link and Andrew O’Neal will compete for starting roles and could team with Faggart to keep Catawba among the elite D-II programs in the South Region.
Sounds like pressure, but Faggart welcomes it.
“I know the shoes being left in that Catawba outfield are big ones to fill,” Faggart said. “But it’s not like I haven’t faced adversity.”
Jake’s middle name is Andrew, but it may as well be Adversity.
He tore both ACLs competing at Northwest Cabarrus, and he persevered through a life-threatening blood clot in his shoulder. He handled a series of crushing physical setbacks with determined smiles and always beat projected recovery timetables by months.
He was Northwest Cabarrus’ quarterback his senior year, often handing off to his twin brother, Jerod, the star running back. Jake had thrown for 1,300 yards and 19 touchdowns and the Trojans looked unstoppable until he blew out his good knee in October, 2005.
Seven months after ACL surgery, he was hitting seven homers for the Kannapolis Legion Wojans, one of the most powerful offensive clubs in Area III history. They staged seven epic games with Rowan County that summer and won four.
Gantt liked the Faggarts but had no chance to land them. The twins were headed to Appalachian State.
They wanted to stay together. They’d always been on the same team, and as much as they loved to rip on each other, they were still best friends.
At ASU, Jerod has contributed significantly as a catcher and DH the past two seasons. He played in 41 games as a sophomore and batted .274 with three homers and 22 RBIs.
But Jake has played very little, unable to crack an outfield that has included David Rubinstein, Jason Rook and Rand Smith.
Jake has enjoyed only one moment of college glory. When ASU played Coppin State at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium, just miles from his home, his freshman year, he was called on as a pinch-hitter with two men on base.
“We weren’t playing a top-notch team, but that first college at-bat I was nervous,” Faggart recalls. “I look out in the stands and see lots of friends and family, and I walk up there thinking about just hitting it hard somewhere, that it would be great to get an RBI.”
He got three with one swing ó a drive that soared over the left-field fence.
He had five hits in that three-game series and nine RBIs, but he’s basically been chained to the bench since.
“My principle has always been to outwork every opponent, to be the first guy at practice and the last one to leave,” Faggart said. “But the playing time just hasn’t been there for me.
“I’ve loved going to school at Appalachian, I love the baseball program, and the coaches are great coaches, but it hasn’t worked out for me as far as playing time. I really don’t want to leave and the coaches don’t want me to leave, but I’m going back down the mountain. It’s something I’ve just got to do because I want to play.”
Faggart insists inactivity hasn’t diminished his considerable skills and says there are no lingering problems from his multiple high school injuries.
“I’m healthy,” he said. “My arm strength is fine, I’m running good (6.7-6.8 60s) and I feel strong. I’m up to 210 pounds, but it’s workout weight, not party weight. I know I’ve got to resharpen my batter’s eye, but I’m not rusty. Guys like (former Northwest Cabarrus teammates) Lucas Dalton and Nick Daniels pitch to me a lot.”
The Faggart brothers are on the roster of the Lake Norman Copperheads, who compete in the wood-bat Southern Collegiate Baseball League and will play home games at Hopewell High this summer.
“I expect to play center field,” Faggart said. “I want to play 40 games, get 100 at-bats in, and see where I am.”
Gantt will keep a close eye on Faggart’s progress and is looking forward to having him on his side for a change.
“I saw Jake way too much when he played for Kannapolis,” Gantt said with a laugh. “But I guess I’ve always admired his work.”
When Faggart obtained his release from ASU, he wanted to join a program that competed for championships.
Catawba does that, and its location ó 35 minutes from home ó was ideal for his family. After he visited Newman Park and met team members, he was sure the fit was right.
“I hung out in the dugout with the guys and it was like being back in those Legion summers that were the most fun times of my life,” Faggart said. “No worries, just baseball.”
Faggart will rejoin 2006 Wojan teammates Ryan Query, Catawba’s starting catcher, and Blake Ketner, a standout pitcher. Faggart also was Ketner’s teammate on the 2005 Northwest team that made the 3A state championship series.
Other Indians, such as East Rowan’s Craige Lyerly and West Rowan’s Link, Brett Hatley and Weston Church, are guys Faggart has played against often and knows well.
Exactly where Faggart will play in the outfield isn’t set in stone, but he isn’t concerned.
“I’ll play shortstop or I’ll play catcher if that’s where Coach wants me,” he said. “I just want to play.”
He’ll be suiting up without his twin for the first time, but he’s sure he can handle it. The Faggarts like to argue over everything from who is the fastest to who is the ugliest, and Jake is confident his brother is now the one getting the short end of the stick.
“Believe me, this separation is gonna be tougher on Jerod,” he said with a grin. “I’m the one who cleans up. I’m the one who gets dinner. I’m the responsible one. He’s definitely the little brother, and we both know it.”
Faggart’s verbal skills are in midseason form. Now he’s just got to go out and smack a few home runs.
“We need outfield offense, and Jake’s the guy who can add that,” Gantt said. “He brings no baggage, he’s a good guy and he can mean a lot to our team.”
Contact Mike London at 704-797-4259 or email@example.com.