FARGO-It was around the age of 12 when Fargo-Moorhead first baseman Chris Jacobs noticed there was something different about him. He was hitting baseballs over the fence. His friends were not.
"It hit me that I could hit balls consistently hard," Jacobs, 29, said. "I thought maybe I could be good at this."
Those were the days when his batting stance was based off of Hall of Famer Frank Thomas with a hint of former MLBer Andruw Jones. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Jacobs has come a long way from emulating someone else in the batter's box.
"When he stands in the box he takes up the whole box," F-M manager Michael Schlact said. "He's a huge guy, but he plays a great first base. He's huge, but he plays the field like he's agile and athletic, which he is. But when he gets a hold of a baseball it's crazy what can happen."
Heading into Tuesday's game against St. Paul, Jacobs was batting .351 with eight homers, 21 runs and 29 RBIs since the RedHawks signed him as a free agent on June 26. He had a 20-game hitting streak snapped on Sunday. Jacobs had not reached based in 11 straight at-bats, including his first three Tuesday, before working a walk in the bottom of the seventh of F-M's 6-0 win Tuesday at Newman Outdoor Field. He finished 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
The RedHawks struck first in the bottom of the fifth, plating one on a two-out bloop single from Brennan Metzger. F-M (39-28) added three in the bottom of the sixth, the big blow coming via a two-out, two-run single from Tim Colwell.
Sebastian Kessay was lights on the mound for F-M, striking out seven in six shutout innings, walking none and giving up three hits. Geoff Broussard pitched the seventh and eighth, and Randy McCurry capped the shutout with a scoreless ninth. The win kept F-M a game behind Gary SouthShore for first place.
"He's stepped right in to be a leader on and off the field," Schlact said of Jacobs. "There's no words really to put into context his value other than he really has been a game changer."
Jacobs went home to North Carolina in the middle of June because he thought maybe his baseball career was over. Sioux Falls had just released him after he batted .224 with one homer, three runs and 10 RBIs in 17 games. He batted .293 and was second on the team with 21 homers and a .517 slugging percentage last season with Sioux Falls.
Before Sioux Falls, Jacobs had spent 10 years in the minor leagues, originally drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 17th round of the 2007 MLB draft. He spent time in the systems of the Dodgers, Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, getting as high as Triple-A in 2015.
His baseball career seemingly was coming to an end less than two months ago.
"Of course those thoughts came through, but I know as good as I am and my ability to play the game that I should have a lot still to give," Jacobs said. "It was only a matter of time. You put in the hard work and stay the course and good things will happen. Baseball is a game of failure and learning how to deal with the failure."
The RedHawks were looking for a right-handed bat with power. They found Jacobs. Schlact knew he had something the first time he took batting practice. He could hear it off Jacobs' bat.
"The ball comes off differently," Schlact said. "It wasn't so much what the ball was doing, it was the sound. It had a different sound."
Jacobs has found a home with the RedHawks.
"My team inspires me," Jacobs said. "It's nice to be on a team with veteran guys that want to win, show up early, do the best they can every day and care about playing good baseball. I'm proud to be part of this team and trying to be a contributing piece to a team fighting for first place."
Jacobs first started swinging a bat at 5 years old with his dad. He enjoyed being outdoors and it came naturally to him. Over the 24 years since he's studied hitting with every at-bat. He even golfs lefty, so as not to mess with his baseball swing.
Jacobs is still learning and he isn't ready to stop.
"Hitting is a lot more complicated than just timing, but it's a lot easier than that too," Jacobs said. "It's just something you have to experience, be in the box for.
"Baseball is a difficult sport. There's ups and downs to baseball. It's all about how you handle them, how you respond. If you jump ship or panic it's not going to work out well for you. You have to have a routine, go to the cage, find something that works for you, show up on time, exercise. There's no secret to it. There's also no waking up and getting results right out of bed."