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Get To Know: Twins RHP Prospect Griffin Jax

Many times when a player is drafted early in the draft, there are many questions. What can he do? What will he need to improve? Will he sign? How long until he potentially gets to the big leagues?

When the Twins drafted RHP Griffin Jax in the third round last June, the big question was when would he be able to pitch? Being selected out of the Air Force Academy, Jax will need to work with the military body to see what options he may have to allow him to pursue his baseball career. That is one of the many topics that we covered in today’s Q&A.
Image courtesy of David McQueen (photo of Griffin Jax)
Jax had a tremendous junior season at the Air Force. From the 2017 Twins Prospect Handbook: “However, as a junior, he went 9-2 with a 2.05 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. The Twins made him the player drafted highest out of the Air Force. He pitched for three weeks in E-Town during his summer break.”

Let’s Get to know Griffin Jax.

Seth Stohs (SS): Growing up in Colorado, I have a decent guess of who your favorite team to follow was? Who were some of your favorite players?


Griffin Jax (GJ): Well I really grew up in Arizona. I moved to Colorado when I was 13, so naturally my favorite team was the Diamondbacks. But my favorite player growing up was Luis Gonzales. The earliest memory I have is when the DBacks won the 2001 World series against New York, and Luis hit the game-winning hit to win the whole thing.



SS: What were some of the better memories of your high school baseball career? Did you play other sports or were you involved in other activities?


GJ: Winning the state championship my junior year of HS was definitely one of the best, but I also played in the Colorado High School Futures game my senior year in Coors Field, which was a great experience. But my all-time favorite memory is winning the Gatorade Player of the Year award in 2013. I also played rec basketball with my friends in mess-around leagues to just have fun.


SS: What was the recruitment process like for you out of high school, and what was it about going to the Air Force Academy that made you want to go there and pitch?


GJ: I really did not get recruited hard out of high school. Up until about my senior year, I had been told "No" by many D1 teams. My best offer at the time I committed was Air Force, as they gave me a full ride to come to school. And the education along with playing D1 baseball was a no-brainer. But as I got into my senior year, I developed a lot and received a lot more attention from colleges. They wanted me to de-commit since Air Force was a non-binding deal. And after I got drafted in 2013, I had more offers than ever. But I really never planned on signing out of high school, or breaking my commitment with Air Force. It was just nice, and also funny, to see how much schools wanted me after the draft.



SS: The Phillies used their 12th round pick in 2013 to select you. At the time, how difficult was the decision to not sign at that time?


GJ: Like i mentioned above, I really never planned on signing out of high school. my mom was always huge into school and getting a degree first. I had good grades in high school, and when I wasn't getting a lot of attention growing up, it hit me that baseball may never last forever, so a college education was important to me too.



SS: What has the Air Force Academy experience been for you on and off the field? What were some of your highlights and favorite moments in your three years there?


GJ: It has been a tough and long experience. but with that, an amazing experience. The things I have learned and experienced at school are unmatched by any other school/program. The mental maturity that comes with going to a military academy can’t be found at any state school. I think the Academy has pushed and matured me better than any other school could have. The best memories I have include graduating basic training before my freshman year, and playing college baseball for three years. I had a rough first two years in college ball, and it took me a little time to really get used to the style of play. But my favorite memory from the Academy is the day I threw a 2 hit/ 13 K game against UC Davis. There were a ton of scouts in the stands, and it was probably the best game I have ever pitched.



SS: With your commitment to the Air Force, do you know when your 2017 season will begin? Has any further decision been made on if you’ll be able to start playing full time in the near future? (if you’re even able to discuss this, of course)


GJ: At the time, it is still unknown. I have applied to be let into the reserves, which means I will be able to play my entire baseball season, and then in the off-season, report to an Air Force base to do my Air Force job. So it is really the best of both worlds. I get to wear the two best uniforms in the nation: the Air Force and the Twins. But as for the 2017 season, I will report as early as late may, after I graduate. As we get closer to then, I will have a better understanding for the plans the US Air Force has for me.



SS: Did you have the chance to speak with many scouts before the draft this year? Where did you think that you might be drafted? What was your interaction with Twins scouts before the draft?


GJ: There were scouts at all my practices from the beginning of my junior year. I remember thinking, it's just a practice, why are they here? But I loved the attention, it made me want to do better and ultimately work harder. Most teams told me they wanted to take me in the early rounds, usually heard 2-4. There were a of couple teams however that told me if I got my service deferred from the Air Force, I would be their first-round pick, and that was very exciting. And my area scout, Ted Williams, was always there. He was a more quiet scout, just usually saying hi or texting me after a game, so it was really surprising when the Twins drafted me!



SS: When you did hear your name in third round, where were you? What your reaction and the reaction of those close to you?


GJ: I was in my parents house watching the draft on my computer. My agent asked me before it started if I was ok going to the Twins for slot money, and I said 100%! I didn't get too excited though because I knew it wasn't a guarantee until it happened. but when it did happen, I remember jumping around my room shouting because I was so happy. It was the best day of my life, so far. My family, Mom and Dad, and both brothers were there with me, and made it the best experience possible.


SS: What has the adjustment like for you, from the amateur/college game to the professional game, both on and off the field?


GJ: Everyone hears about the big jump from high school to college then to pro ball. But it was bigger than i had imagined. Obviously I was excited and ready for the challenge, but everyone in pro ball is the best, otherwise they wouldn't be there. Off the field, it is all about taking care of your body. You play like 70 games with 2 total off days. Which means you are going to have to have a great work ethic; stretching, keeping in shape, and eating right all make a huge difference. I think the Academy helped me in my work ethic because I am used to the total grind of life.


SS: You got to pitch for a couple of weeks in early July in Elizabethton. What was the experience like in Tennessee, even just for that short time?


GJ: I tried to make as big an impact as possible. I knew that I would only be able to pitch for about 4 weeks, but I wanted to set a tone for later in my career. I showed up early every day and did everything extra possible to make sure I was at the top of my game. The atmosphere was incredible. The town was awesome and the friends and teammates were great. I had the best possible four weeks there that I could, and am looking forward to next season.



SS: What pitches do you throw, and what would you consider your out pitch?


GJ: I throw three pitches, my two-seam fastball, my changeup and my slider. My change up is my best out pitch. Coupled with my hard fastball, it allows me to get in the hitters head. I can throw it at all times in the at-bat, and puts extra doubt in the hitter's' mind.


SS: At this very early stage in your career, what would you say are your biggest strengths?


GJ: So far, my biggest strengths are my overall strength, my work ethic and my passion.


SS: What are the areas of your game that you would like to spend time working to improve in the offseason and going forward?


GJ: I have spent a ton of time on my flexibility this winter. If I'm not flexible and loose, I am not healthy and not on the field.



SS: What are some of the things you enjoy doing away from the game of baseball?


GJ: I love to hike, fish, snowboard and just relax. I like being by myself a lot of the time, and it helps me relax and focus on things to make myself better.



SS: Who are some of the people who have helped you get to this point in your career?


GJ: My father definitely. Coming from the professional world of sports, he instilled in me early the importance of working hard and "want". Everyday growing up, he would always ask me if I wanted it, and if I seemed like I didn't, he would stop me and challenge me. At the time, I hated it, but now, I really appreciate it. Growing up I was never the best, or most talented. So him making sure I always worked hard really gave me an edge over guys who had more talent than me.



SS: Your father spent 10 years in the NFL. Since you were one during his final season, I’d guess you don’t remember much about it. Since then, has he given you any advice about being a professional athlete?


GJ: I don't remember anything specific about him playing, but I remember going to his practices after he retired and when he helped out with the team. I always remember he was big on attitude and passion. Those will always carry over when talent is not there, or not working. He understood that there would be some athletes who did not care, or try as hard, but he made sure I was doing everything I could to make myself better.


SS: Favorite baseball movie?


GJ: Original Sandlot hands down!



A huge thank you to Griffin Jax for taking time to answer our questions. Please feel free to Comment below or ask some of your own questions.

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4 Comments

Nice write up.  Frankly, I didn't know much about him.  He dad played in the NFL?  Bloodlines!  Hope he makes it.  I like the nugget that some saw him as a potential first rounder.  

    • beckmt, goulik and twinstarheelsfan like this

Seems to have some ability and a good head on his shoulders.  Him, Balazovic, and Benninghoff are the 3 pitchers from last year's draft I've got my eye on going forward.

 

He dad played in the NFL?  Bloodlines! 

 

Garth Jax. Linebacker.Was a Dallas Cowboys ST star in the late 80s and then with the Cardinals after they moved west.Pretty long ST career.

    • gunnarthor likes this
Looking forward to seeing what Jax can do. Love the military background. That will serve him well with a work ethic to make it to the majors. He made the right choice by going to the Air Force academy. That type of education and training will serve him well even when he is done with sports

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