Prior to all sports — including college baseball — shutting down due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, USF baseball was struggling, going 6-11 in the early part of the season.
Despite what looked like an uphill battle, the Bulls found respite on the mound.
Freshman Jack Jasiak was emerging as one of the most consistent and relied-on pitchers, throwing 28 strikeouts across 23.1 innings in four starts.
Even through the pandemic, he’s still finding ways to sharpen his game.
“I’m still throwing here a little bit at my house with my younger brother Jake,” Jasiak said. “You just got to stay mentally in the game.”
Jasiak and his brother both played for Springstead High School in Spring Hill. His brother, younger by a year, played catcher for the Eagles.
Given the current circumstances, Jasiak has the perfect partner to pitch to.
“He’s used to catching me, so I can still throw bullpens and flat grounds,” Jasiak said.
Not only is Jasiak improving his arm, but he’s also working out his entire body. He gets his workouts in using the weight set and rack at his parents’ home in Spring Hill.
Some athletes may see this unusual break from the action as a time to relax and catch their breath. But he’s also seeing it as a crucial time to improve personally. Now, while everything is on hold, one can focus on their own growth.
“We all made a joke of it as a team, this is like our first spring break in how many years,” Jasiak said.
“This is a big time to gain weight, get stronger to come back even harder and better than I was in the year earlier. I feel like if I don’t use this time to get better and work on things, then I feel like I’d be that much more behind when I come back.”
The Bulls also have some added accountability via virtual weekly team meetings.
Each Tuesday, the Bulls have meetings to keep updated on what’s happening. Even though they can’t be together in person, the team is still keeping up with each other — and keeping each other accountable.
“Those guys are still there for you,” Jasiak said. “It kind of reminds you that you still have schoolwork, you still have to work out in any way that you can.”
In between his responsibilities, Jasiak has found time to play the baseball video game MLB The Show — his go-to teams are the Twins and the Nationals, citing both teams being “loaded with bombers.” He’s also found time to help his dad, Joseph, with his kitchen and bathroom remodeling business.
Still, there remains the academic side of things.
For many USF students, schoolwork has become a challenge, with all classes being moved to virtual platforms. But as the semester comes to a close, some students have grown accustomed to sitting in front of a screen instead of sitting in a classroom.
Jasiak, a health science major, has found the transition rather easy, especially considering two of his classes were already online.
“Classes have been pretty easy,” he said. “Just have to get the mentality of taking four online classes.”
That same mentality might have been what helped Jasiak in the transition from high school ball to Division I college baseball, given his almost immediate success.
“The game speeds up really fast,” he said. “But going along the way, they prepare us so much with doing a bunch of those intrasquad … just gearing up for that longer season … you have to get more mentally prepared.”
In theory, Jasiak would’ve had a longer season. But the cancellation of spring sports means he’s left wanting more baseball.
Currently, the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) is the only professional league in play, with the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) set to start in May. The CPBL is being streamed on Twitch and through Yahoo Sports Taiwan, and there is a chance KBO games could be broadcast on ESPN.
It’s not MLB, but it is baseball, which means entertainment for those cooped up at home and a chance to learn from the game outside of the United States.
“Any baseball to watch is baseball,” Jasiak said. “You can take anything. It’s professional, they’re good. Just watching the game is awesome.”
Watching baseball through his screen is nothing like taking part in it on the diamond. And like any other athlete, Jasiak is eager to do what he loves again.
But by looking at the bigger picture, he understands that sports were put on hold for a reason.
“You wish you were playing, but no one’s playing right now,” Jasiak said. “You have to take everything with serious precautions.”
For the full conversation with Jack Jasiak, watch The Oracle Sports Podcast with Brian Hattab and Nolan Brown, which premieres later this week.