By Sam Coppola ’14
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go . . . ”
Everyone’s heard the story of the local athlete that made it. But, there are also the stories of local athletes that push themselves for years in hopes of one day making it to the highest level. Not every athlete can go the route of getting drafted out of high school or playing junior college ball for a year or two. Some players that have the professional ambition to do something with their baseball careers have different paths and obstacles to overcome. As for Jasper Adams, the dream of one day being signed to a Major League ball club is still in reach. There were no guarantees of what baseball or life had in store for Adams — but it was the journey along the way that made him into the person he is today.
“Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find, for a mind maker-upper to make up his mind”
Let’s start in Leverett, Massachusetts at Amherst Regional High School where Adams was a starting pitcher for the Hurricanes. Adams had just put together a very impressive junior season that saw him earn the honor of Western Massachusetts Pitcher of the Year. This honor and performance led to many discussions with D-I schools, such as the University of Vermont and the University of Massachusetts. “At this point, I knew I could pitch at the Division I level and I was excited at the possibility,” Adams says.
However, he wouldn’t get this opportunity upon the news of a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). Since it occurred during prime recruiting time, everyone seemed to drop him from their radar and moved on to other prospects. Not requiring surgery, Adams elected to rehab and push towards his senior season. “My senior year was nothing special,” Adams recalls. “I pitched decently, but not well by any means.” It was clear that Adams still had work to do if he wanted to be a successful pitcher at the college level.
“Onward up many a frightening creek, though your arms may get sore and your sneakers may leak. Oh! The places you’ll go!”
After graduation, Adams made the decision to take the year off not only to better his baseball opportunities, but also to better himself. The year off saw Adams spend time in both Australia and Argentina. His first trip was a two-month experience where he lived in Perth, Australia volunteering as a gym teacher at a refugee elementary school. Adams had his hands full with this opportunity because most of the students at the school spoke very little English. This helped create a relationship with these children where he was learning as much from them as they were from him. “This was something that not many people get to experience, the kids are what really made this worthwhile,” Adams says.
Also while down under, Adams continued to try and regain the mound presence that he pitched with during his junior year. He played first base and pitcher while playing in his brief stint with the Curtin Ball Club in the Provincial League in Western Australia.
“Out there things can happen, and frequently do,
To people as brainy and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen, don’t worry, don’t stew.
Just go right along, you’ll start happening too!”
Adams was able to spend Christmas and New Year’s back in the states with his family and friends before heading to Argentina. It was there that he spent his time on a 10-week wildlife research and wilderness exploration program. Adams detailed his accounts of this experience as something very unique. He and his group would take long hikes into the thick of the woods and forests to camp out and perform various research on the surrounding environment. “I love the outdoors, so being able to actually get out there and really do something with my time was unbelievable,” Adams says.
During this whole experience, Adams was prepared to go to the University of Vermont in the fall and play baseball. However, in February of 2009 the Catamounts made the difficult decision of canceling their baseball program. “Now I didn’t know what I was going to do next year because baseball was the main reason I was going to Vermont,” Adams recalls. With not many options available, Adams contacted George Valesente, the head baseball coach at Ithaca College. Ithaca had been recruiting Adams during high school and he felt like if they still wanted him, he could make a big impact on their team. “I really saw the potential in Jasper and was thrilled at the thought of being able to add him to our roster,” Valesente says. So, they worked together in contacting the admissions office and reactivating his application. Shortly after, Adams was accepted and the paperwork was processed for him to become a Bomber.
I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
can happen to you.”
Upon arriving at South Hill, Adams knew he that even though he was a year older than his incoming classmates, he was going to have to prove himself on the diamond. During his freshman season, he appeared in 14 games for the Bombers, while making one start. The potential that Valesente show during his high school seasons made noise the next year. As a sophomore, Adams led the Bombers with a 1.59 ERA. He was able to compile one complete game, as well as earning one save out of the bullpen.
Adams thought he pitched well during his first two years on campus, but nowhere close to where he wanted to be. Valesente encourages players to play baseball to some capacity during the offseason. In the midst of a summer league playoff game, Adams is cruising along through the 7th inning when he feels something awkward in his elbow after a pitch. In his head he’s thinking “not again,” but Adams decides to throw one more pitch and gauge the situation. Right away he realized that something was definitely wrong and the MRI proved it. Adams had completely tore his ulnar collateral ligament this time, only now the injury was requiring Tommy John surgery. This meant no pitching for not only the rest of the summer, but most likely for his entire junior season. “I was so disappointed when the doctor gave me the news, all I could think about was my team and what I wouldn’t be able to do with them next season,” Adams says.
In September of 2011, Adams was put under the knife at SUNY Upstate Medical University at Syracuse by Dr. Daniel DiChristina. Adams was in good spirits before the surgery because he was confident in DiChristina’s role as the head team physician of the minor league hockey team, the Syracuse Crunch. After a successful surgery — with being told no pitching — the only thing left to do was rehabilitation. Valesente found Adams to be such an important part of their roster that he remained and traveled with the team throughout the whole season. “Keeping Jasper with us all season was win-win for both of us,” Valesente says. “Jasper could train, develop, and get healthy while working with trainers and coaches and he would be a great influence over other players, showing them that this is very important and he still wants to contribute.”
Adams then participated in strenuous rehab workouts with the head baseball trainer, Todd Lazenby. As the season progressed, Adams continued to travel with the team, even all the way to California for their spring trip. Valesente’s idea of Adams being a positive influence over the team was evident more than ever during the team’s regional tournament game late in the season. Adams had noticed that one of his teammates was not behaving properly and he addressed the issue. “It showed me that he was willing to put the team first, let his intentions and feelings known to the team,” Valesente says. “He was showing what we teach and stand for, I was immediately aware that he could be our next captain.”
During his senior season, Adams struggled early to regain his confidence in being able to get back his velocity and accuracy. His numbers were indicative of these struggles, but steadily showed improvement throughout the course of the season. This was never more obvious than the way Adams finished the season. He picked up three victories: at home to Montclair State, vs. Amherst in the semi-final of the Regional Tournament, and in a World Series elimination game vs. Keane. In this stretch, Adams threw 22 innings, allowing two earned runs, while allowing only 11 hits, none of which went for extra bases. “I was finally starting to feel like my old self again,” says Adams. What looked like a shaky senior campaign saw Adams finishing the season with a 7-0 record and a 3.94 ERA. Not bad for a guy coming off a second arm injury, the latest resulting in Tommy John surgery.
I’m afraid that some times
you’ll play lonely games too.
Games you can’t win
’cause you’ll play against you.”
Adams took this late success and continued it while playing summer ball in Elmira, NY for the Pioneers in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. Adams and Valesente had talked at the end of the season of him possibly returning for another season and using that year of eligibility to pitch again for the Bombers. The only problem with this idea was that Adams had already graduated from Ithaca College and his undergraduate degree didn’t qualify him for the graduate program that he wanted. Adams was hoping that the school could work something out, but unfortunately that was not the case. “We would have been thrilled to have him and his leadership back for one more season, but sometimes it doesn’t work out,” says Valesente. He and Valesente both agree that the biggest mistake they made in this process was allowing Adams to graduate on time. If he hadn’t done so, Adams would have fallen a credit short of graduating and he could have taken the fall semester off and come back in the spring to finish his degree and play baseball. “This came at such a disappointment because at the end of the season, Jasper really had it going and it looked like he would have helped the team out this coming season,” says Bill Collins, former teammate and current roommate.
Upon receiving this news, Adams was stuck with a signed rent lease and very little means of paying for it. Luckily, or ever so convenient, Rogan’s Corner was looking for delivery drivers for the upcoming semester. So, for the last several months, Adams has been working there to pay the bills, while also training with trainers, coaches, and players at Ithaca College’s facilities. Adams and fellow Bomber teammates also train in Dryden, NY three times a week at Valer Strength and Conditioning. Valer is a strenuous well rounded workout that has the players focused on baseball related movements and strengths.
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
This past May, Jasper and two other Ithaca College teammates: Pat Lemmo and Corey Caswell — signed contracts with the Alpine Cowboys, an independent team in the Pecos League. “Before accepting the offer in play in Texas, I wanted to make sure that I was ready both mentally and physically,” Adams says. “The workouts on campus and with my former teammates gave me the confidence that I could still pitch at a high level.”
Six years ago, Adams was a high school senior wondering what he was going to do with his life. Now he’s a college graduate who has traveled to unique places around the world and is still attempting to live out his dream. Not many people at the age of 24, can say that they have continued to push themselves over the course of many years to achieve a certain goal. Hopefully, Texas is just the first stop of many for Adams and his promising professional pitching career.