The Jake Peavy Story

Jake Peavy

Jake Peavy represents the future in San Diego. The Padres right-hander has already made a name for himself with a 12-win season in 2003, the only starter to have a winning record. The early returns on his career are eerily reminiscent to that of future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux – we could all be so lucky. Yet, it is the past, his demeanor and the story behind the pitcher you see every fifth day that really makes Peavy a great role model that you hope can accomplish half of what Maddux has.

Imagine you are living in the Mobile area and Josh Barfield – the real Josh Barfield – and not a LaDainian Tomlinson recorded message Charger fans – calls you up to ask you when you are going to buy some season tickets. How do you respond?

Ask those receiving calls in the winter of 2002 from Jake Peavy working full time, forty hours, in the Mobile BayBears office. Jake Peavy the salesman.

The phone calls went down something like this:

"Hello, Mr. Smith. This is Jake Peavy from the Mobile BayBears. We have some exciting things going on in Mobile this year and hoped you would be a part of it."

Mr. Smith, as with anyone taking a call from a salesperson, takes a minute to comprehend what is being said. "Who is this?"

"Jake, Jake Peavy."

Laughter ensues from Mr. Smith. "So I am talking to Jake Peavy, huh?"

"Yes sir."

"Are you selling me a bridge too Jake?"

"I don't know what you mean sir. We would just like you to come out this season and support baseball in Mobile. We think we have a great chance at doing wonderful things here.

"I am not sure if I will be here in 2002 as I plan on being on the San Diego Padres, but some familiar faces will be back and we would love your support."

"Jake, is that really you?"

"Yes sir, it is."

Tom Nichols, the broadcaster for the BayBears, thoughtfully recalls that winter.

"Jake Peavy is actually an interesting story.

"He is the only player that I know of who actually took a full time position with the team (Mobile) in the offseason. He worked 40 hours a week in the office, answered phones, made sales calls. This would have been prior to the 2002 season. He was in our office fulltime all offseason. He was a Mobile guy anyway. We didn't know him real well up until that time. He was just a high school kid until he got drafted. We didn't have a lot of contact with him. Then he came and worked in our office. I had lunch with him everyday for four months."

The relationship blossomed and Jake and Tom remain good friends today.

What the small snippet of a winter in 2001-2002 says is that Peavy is a hard worker who is not afraid to get his nose dirty. He appreciates the game of baseball and his role in the sport. He understands that baseball can be a vice to get away from the working of a tough day and he is equally capable of doing his part to make sure the fans come out in droves.

Peavy was drafted by the Padres in the 15th round of the 1999 draft and has often been compared to Greg Maddux, both in terms of stuff and control. His fastball has a bit more zip on it than Maddux and the pinpoint control is improving to Maddux-like proportions. The righty has three above average pitches with his slider and changeup and has enough confidence to throw any pitch on any count.

Makes you wonder if it was the time he spent working the phones in Mobile that gave him that confidence. More likely, he has always had that air. Peavy has just honed its use along the way.

That phone call with Mr. Smith was probably prophetic as Peavy made the San Diego Padres in 2002, starting 17 games.

Nichols looks back on that moment with pride:

"When he got to the big leagues, for some of us it was almost like a family member getting there. I have been doing this a long time and have seen players from our team make the big leagues, but I have never had someone that close to us get there.

"I took my first game off in sixteen years when the Padres played Atlanta and went over and watched Jake pitch against the Braves at Ted Turner field."

Inspiring a broadcaster that has seen more than his share of prospects come through a system to take a day off is truly saying something. And now that San Diego has a new ballpark?

"I have been thinking about coming out," Nichols adds with a smile.

In the winter of 2002, Mr. Smith likely had a hard time saying no as well. Jake Peavy touches people in a profound way. Who wouldn't want to watch this superstar, on and off the field, in person?

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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