The game of baseball has taken Jason Jacome around the world since he last pitched at Pima Community College in 1991.
That season Jacome was named Region 1 Player of the Year, with a record of 17-2. He was drafted in the 12th round in the 1991 MLB draft by the New York Mets.
Now, 30 years later, he is back where the whole journey started. Jason was recently hired as an assistant baseball coach for the Aztecs, joining his brother, head coach Ken Jacome in the dugout this season.
Jason and his family made the move to Tucson from Madison, Wis. His son Atley Jacome joined the Aztec baseball team this season as well.
Jason played five seasons in the major leagues with the Mets, Kansas City Royals, and the Cleveland Indians, before playing a combined 10 years in the minors and overseas in Japan.
He is proud of his time in the big leagues.
“I guess I’m most proud of the fact that I stayed there for a while, it wasn’t just a cup of coffee,” he said. “I was there for parts of five years. It was just an accomplishment for me to even make it to the big leagues, but to be able to stay there for a significant amount of time was probably one of my greatest achievements.”
Jason brings a wealth of knowledge back to Tucson from his years playing professionally. Preparation is the biggest aspect that he has held on to and he relates it to everyday life.
“You need to prepare for everything,” he said. “In baseball you have to prepare yourself for the game, you have to prepare yourself for what happens during the game, and have a plan for each thing.
“I think it’s the same with daily life, you have to prepare how you want to go about your day, and what you’re gonna do, and you just have to have things in order.”
Jason lets out a chuckle when asked what advice he would give to baseball players that have aspirations of playing professionally.
“You can set your goals high in wanting to play professional baseball, but your schooling needs to come first,” he said. “Even if you do make it to play professional baseball, the chances of you going all the way to the big leagues are slim, so there is something that you need to have to fall back on,”
Brothers in Arms
While his brother Jason was playing professionally, Ken started putting an impressive coaching resume together.
With successful assistant coaching stints for the University of Arizona (1997-1998), the bronze medal-winning USA Junior National Team (2002), the University of New Mexico (2005-2018), and head a coaching stop in between at El Paso Community College (1999-2004), Ken is definitely no stranger to coaching.
He was hired as head baseball coach by Pima in 2018.
Jason’s years of playing professionally are a big reason Ken brought him onto the coaching staff.
“I think his biggest strength is the ability to provide information and knowledge to our players based on his experience throughout the years that he’s played baseball,” Ken Jacome says. “He’s played professional baseball for a number of years, and you’re bound to gain some knowledge based on your experience in the game.
“Being able to bring that back to Pima and talk to our guys about things that he’s had to go through has been a great help.”
The admiration is mutual between the Jacome brothers.
In 2018, when Jason found out that his older brother Ken had been named head baseball coach at Pima, it was only a matter of time before he thought he would be coaching next to him.
“When I found out that he was going to be the head coach here at Pima, I started making plans for my family,” Jason said. “I was waiting for my son to graduate from high school, and as soon as he did, we packed up all of our stuff and we moved back here.”
As for Ken, it was the opportunity of a lifetime to have his brother Jason on the same coaching staff with him.
“It’s been awesome,” Ken said. “Obviously with him having a career and living away from Tucson, and me having a career living away from Tucson, and both of us coming back home, and being able to be out on the baseball field together, it’s been a really, really awesome opportunity.”
Ken believes Jason’s experience in the big leagues and playing professionally has brought an added element to the coaching staff.
“It’s been nice to have that voice that I know and respect because not only is he my brother, but I know where he has been and what he has done,” Ken said. “It’s not easy to find somebody like that, with the experience that he has as a professional baseball player to come and help you at a junior college.
“It’s exciting for us to have that opportunity to be together out on the field. We’ve been apart for so long, and now to have a chance to be together every day has been tremendous.”
The Circle of Baseball Life
Now that Jason has come full circle back to Pima where his baseball career took off, he reflects on what has changed in the 30 years since he was an Aztec.
One of the main differences are the wooden bats used now. Many college leagues utilize reinforced carbon fiber polymer, or composite, bats rather than the aluminum alloys like the past.
“We have guys that hit the ball out of the ballpark a lot, but if we were using the composite type bats that they have now, I could only imagine how the ball would fly out of here. I think the wood bat is a difference maker as far as home runs go,” Jason said.
Jason also mentioned the player backgrounds of the program are different now.
“Pima for us guys in high school was the place to go,” Jason said. “The thing that’s changed is it went from being a team with all Tucson kids, but now all the kids are from somewhere else.
“There are kids from New Mexico and Texas, and Nevada and California, we’ve got a kid from Wisconsin, and Wyoming, just all over the place, and that’s the big difference.”
As far as expectations for this season, Jason seems impressed with what he has seen out of the team so far.
“I expect us to do big things. We’ve got a great roster, and with the rosters being expanded a little bit this year, we’re able to carry more people that help us win games,” Jason said. “Everybody on the team can play a part in helping us win ball games.”
Due to issues with COVID-19, the baseball team faced some setbacks in the offseason and the beginning of the season.
“It’s definitely taken a little bit from everyone because normally as a baseball player you’d be playing baseball year around. You’d be playing winter, spring, summer, always playing. You tend to take little time off, and that’s how you get better,” Jason said. “But this past year at the end of 2020, there was no fall baseball. So these guys had to basically miss the whole fall season of workouts, scrimmage games, and all of those things that make you better, and then had to wait until the spring and play very few scrimmage games to get ready for the season.”
After the first three games of the season were cancelled due to COVID-19 protocols, the team morale was affected. However, the Aztecs were finally able to take the diamond where they won three out of four games against 20th-ranked College of Southern Nevada.
“It was a huge disappointment when our first series we were going to play got cancelled. You could see the look in everybody’s eyes and on their faces, they were extremely disappointed,” Jason said. “But it made up for it the next week when we told them we were going to play.
“To see the guys high five and let out a yell, and clap and everybody get pumped up. It was like opening day all over again for me with everybody getting excited to get out there for the first day after a long spring training.”
With the baseball season finally underway for the Aztecs, Jason is back home where his baseball odyssey began, next to his brother Ken, coaching a team that includes his son.
While the game of baseball has taken him across the globe, the game of life has brought him back to baseball. Jason realizes the connection between the two.
“In baseball you have to prepare for each day going to the field, and how you’re going to pitch your ballgame, and what you’re going to do after your game, and what to do to get better, and I think the same thing goes for living life,” says Jacome. “You can do things and if they don’t work out, you can plan something different, and have a way to get better at things you aren’t good at.”
The Aztecs (3-1) next series is a double-header at Paradise Valley Community College on Tuesday.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writing intern Kevin Murphy was born and raised in Tucson, and has followed Arizona Wildcats athletics since childhood. He is currently attending Pima Community College where he writes for the Aztec Press. Next semester he will be attending the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU where he will work towards a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies.