The name Jacome should not only ring a bell in Tucson, it should send off sirens when it comes to baseball excellence and the historic value the family has on the city’s development.
Jacome’s downtown was a Tucson tradition. The three-generation, family-owned department store represented one of the many successes achieved by the dedicated people who pioneered this city more than a century ago. The store, frequented by customers from Tucson and Mexico, was in operation from 1896 to 1980 with the last 30 years at Stone and Pennington. When that location opened in 1951 the store was reported to be worth $1 million, a great amount in those days.
The advent of shopping centers around town and the stagnant downtown environment in the late 1970’s forced the closure of the store.
The Jacome baseball blood keeps pumping, however.
Jacob Jacome, who recently completed his lone season at Pima Community College with his dad, Ken Jacome, as the head baseball coach, is a fourth-generation baseball player from the family.
His father was a standout at Rincon High School who played collegiately before embarking on a coaching career that includes stops at Pueblo High School as the head coach and then Arizona as an assistant, El Paso Community College as the head coach and New Mexico as an assistant before his hire at Pima last year as the head coach.
“He’s been around Tucson his whole life,” Jacob said of his father recently before the Sun Belt College League All-Star Game at Kino Field. “It was a great opportunity for him to come home and coach at Pima.
“I have a bunch of family out here. It was good to play in front of my grandparents, my parents and all my family members. It was a great experience.”
PREVIOUSLY IN WINGS OVER BROADWAY SUMMER YOUTH SERIES:
Jacob is returning to his home near Albuquerque this school year, set to play for New Mexico Highlands on a baseball scholarship after a productive season at second base for the Aztecs. He spent most of his life in Albuquerque after he was born in El Paso, where his father started the program at the community college there in 1999 following a two-year stint as a graduate assistant under Jerry Stitt at Arizona.
Ken was hired by former New Mexico coach Rich Alday, a legendary coaching figure in Tucson, to coach pitchers in 2004. He became the infield coach and recruiting coordinator for the Lobos in 2009.
“From the time he could walk in our dugout at New Mexico, baseball has been a big part of Jacob’s life,” Ken said from his office at Pima, where he coached the Aztecs to a 36-19 season in his first year. “We had a little infield next to our game field. It was like a T-ball field and that’s where it all started for him.”
From a genetics sense, baseball for Jacob really started with his great grandfather Eddie Jacome, who was a legend at Tucson High after pitching the Badgers to state titles in 1945 and 1946. Eddie was so popular The Arizona Daily Star ran periodic articles to update his exploits as a right-hander in a professional career that lasted seven years in the minors, finishing at Midland (Texas) in 1953 after he was not re-signed despite going 61-30 in his three years there.
Jacob’s grandfather Ken Sr. pitched at Arizona after he earned all-city honors at Rincon in the mid 1960’s. His grandfather’s brother David was a talented shortstop also from Rincon who went on to join the Wildcats after stops at NAU and Phoenix College.
Then comes his father and his uncle Jason, who also excelled at Rincon and Pima before embarking on a pro career that resulted in five years in the majors from 1994 to 1998 with the New York Mets, Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians. Jason is one of only seven pitchers who faced Derek Jeter at least eight times in the regular season and never allowed the superstar a hit.
“It’s one big family with a lot of history and we’re proud to be part of it,” Ken said about the Jacome lore in baseball and the department store. “There was a bunch of brothers (six to be exact) who were all originally part of that store. There is so much family in town that I have not even met because the family is so widespread.”
Jacob and his cousin Atley (Jason’s son) have continued the Jacome name on the diamond. Atley was a senior right-hander this season at West High School in Madison, Wis., where Jason and his wife Lisa have lived for the last few years. Madison is where Lisa is from. They have owned and operated a children’s clothing store there. Ken mentioned they are contemplating a move to Tucson.
Ken’s wife Elizabeth and daughters Isabella and Alexandra remain in Albuquerque, where Elizabeth is the director of curriculum and instruction for the Rio Rancho Public School District. Elizabeth and Alexandra, who is 12, will likely join Ken in Tucson after Isabella, an accomplished volleyball player, concludes her career at Volcano Vista High School in Albuquerque in 2020-21.
“Both of our daughters are heavily involved with volleyball on the court and on sand,” Ken said. “What they’re doing and what Jacob has accomplished is a true blessing for us. For me, personally, it was awesome to finally get the chance to coach my son this last season at Pima. I can’t tell you how fun it was.
“I had never been able to coach my son on a team. He would come out and do stuff with our team in New Mexico but I never had the chance to coach him. When he was growing up, I was busy coaching at New Mexico, so I missed a lot of what he did with his Little League team and I missed a lot of his high school games. To be able to spend an entire season with him at the baseball field … it’s a feeling I can’t explain.”
Jacob, a standout infielder at Volcano Vista in Albuquerque, spent one season at GateWay Community College in Phoenix before seizing the opportunity to transfer to Pima last school year to be with his dad.
“It was a great experience,” Jacob said of playing with the Aztecs for his dad. “I’ve always dreamed of being able to play for him and to be able to finally accomplish that dream this year was really great. I really enjoyed it a lot.”
Jacob’s stats improved this season from a .194 batting average at GateWay to .265 with Pima. His confidence rose playing for his dad and Pima assistant Jared Holley, an infielder at New Mexico from 2013 to 2016.
“I think it was a combination of a couple of things that worked in his favor,” Ken said. “His maturity was significant, playing after a year under his belt in junior college. I think he also felt comfortable around myself and Coach Holley, who spent a lot of time with Jacob at New Mexico when he was working out in the infield.
“Jacob did a great job at second base (fielding percentage of .944). He had the mindset of proving himself because he did not want people thinking he was playing because I am his dad. This summer, he has been incredible. He is playing unbelievably well.”
The recent Sun Belt College League All-Star Game included Jacob and 11 other Pima players from this year’s roster, an indication of the talent level Ken is trying to amass. On a mid-July afternoon, Ken was not summer vacationing or taking some time off, he was planning his next recruiting venture this weekend.
“If you want to be good at anything, you have to work,” he said.
His work this weekend — he calls it his “part-time job” — is coordinating the Five Tool Baseball Showcase in Sacramento. He conducts these events at various venues in the Western region for Five Tool, which was established in 2013 as a joint effort between college coaches and select clubs to provide quality competition.
Players showcase their abilities in front of college recruiters and professional scouts in these events.
“Running these tournaments is great for me because it involves baseball and some talented players ages 16 to 18 are part of it,” Ken said. “That gives me a chance to recruit without Pima having to pay for it.”
Spoken like a true frugal Jacome, a family that historically knows how to operate a business.
“Make your store a friendly store and you will live forever” was the motto of the Jacome’s department store.
The store closed its doors almost 40 years ago but the name continues to flourish.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.