For many Timberjacks, dreams begin here
Jared Jensen just wanted to get a glimpse of Miles Field.
Then, the right-handed pitcher out of Utah's Brigham Young Universityfelt he could settle down and get used to the idea of pitching professionallyin his first minor league town: Medford.
I've got to see the ballpark as quick as I can, said Jensen,a ninth-round selection by the Oakland Athletics in this spring's draft.That's where I'm going to be spending most of my time.
Jensen and 19 other new members of the Southern Oregon Timberjacks flewinto Medford on Wednesday to prepare for the Northwest League season.
Many players, like Jensen, are just beginning their professional careers.Jensen had the option of returning to BYU, but, at 23, he feels it's timeto try to make it in professional baseball.
I don't care whether I'm a starter, a setup guy or a closer,said Jensen. I just want to pitch.
Jensen and right-handed pitcher Tim Hudson, a sixth-round pick from Auburn,are viewed as the top two Oakland pitchers to sign contracts after the draft,according to scouting director Grady Fuson.
Hudson was not among the Timberjacks to report here Wednesday. He isexpected to be in camp by tonight, according to club officials.
Jensen is known as a hard thrower. He hopes to mix in an improved curveball,slider and changeup to go with a blazing fastball.
I feel very comfortable throwing my fastball at any time,said Jensen. I'm hoping these guys (Timberjacks coaches) can teachme some new tricks and help me with my curveball and changeup.
Jensen's first impressions of Medford were positive.
It's green here, he said. I like all of the trees.And the people seem nice.
Jensen may be throwing to catcher Ron Tegland, a 6-foot-2, 220-poundconverted infielder, who played for the University of Arizona, Ventura JuniorCollege and San Francisco State. He spent the 1996 season playing developmentalball for Oakland in the Scottsdale (Ariz.) rookie league. He was signedby the A's as a free agent in 1996.
I've never played catcher, but I'm ready, says Tegland, whospent the last eight days learning how to be a catcher with former Timberjacksmanager Tony DeFrancesco.
It was an eight-day crash course, and I learned a lot, saysTegland. It's going to be a matter of how quickly I can recognizepitches and call them.
Tegland could be a power hitter in the middle of the Timberjacks' lineupif he can quickly master the fundamentals of being a catcher. He hit 13home runs for Arizona in 1994, before transferring to San Francisco Statefor a year.
I think they (the A's) like my size and power, he says. Theyfeel they can teach me to catch. I think they can, too. I need to learnas fast as I can.
Pitcher Elvin Nina is a 21-year-old right-handed pitcher from the DominicanRepublic who had a 2-0 record for Oklahoma State University this spring.He hopes to become a starter for the Timberjacks. He was a 17th-round pickby Oakland and needed just two days to sign a contract.
I'm pretty confident, and I want to get going, says Nina,who says he models himself after Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Ramon Martinezand former San Francisco Giants pitcher Juan Marichal.
Being from the Dominican Republic, I want to get on with my dreamof playing pro ball, he says. Kids are playing baseball in theDominican Republic by the time they are 5 years old. I was one of them.
Nina moved with his family from the Dominican Republic to New Jerseyat age 5. He's been throwing baseballs since.
It's been a long day flying from Oklahoma City, to Dallas, to SanFrancisco and here, said Nina. But I'm happy to be here.
I want to show these people what I can do. I'm hoping I am a startingpitcher for this team soon.
Four pitchers return to the Timberjacks this season from the 1996 team.They are right-handers Brad Blumenstock and Randy Glaze and left-handersRico Lagattuta and Tom Knickerbocker.
The Timberjacks will have an early glut of pitchers, but Oakland officialsplan to move some pitchers up to Visalia, Calif., or down to Scottsdaleafter looking at them.
The Timberjacks have 13 pitchers on their roster, with more expectedto attend workouts the rest of the week.