Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Alumni Update: 9-Innings with Jacob Howell

Howell, joined by captains Angle, DeLucia, and Fryer, holds the 2007 Big Ten Tournament trophy

A .500 record Big Ten record, 6th place conference finish, ace goes down with Tommy John, a team with 7 future MLB draft picks, including the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year. The 2007 regular season by all means was one of disappointment, underachievement, and perhaps the most roller-coaster up and down season in recent Buckeye history.

The Buckeyes secured the 6th and final Big Ten tournament berth on the last game of the year, winning at Penn State 3-2. No other team prior had won the tournament as a 6th seed, with Michigan and Minnesota rolling into the postseason with a full head of steam, it appeared 2007 would be a Buckeye season full of potential untapped, one that fans, players, parents, and coaches would surely shake their head at.

Two and a half years later, we are still shaking our heads.

The run the Buckeyes went on to capture the 2007 Big Ten Tournament Championship will be a story that forever will live in the memories and hearts of those within, following, and admiring from afar the Ohio State baseball program. Clutch hitting, gritty pitching performances, and having the hearts of champions propelled the Buckeyes to knock off each and every comer on their way to the NCAA automatic bid.

Every game brought something new. Be it the slugfest the Buckeyes opened with against Penn State, knocking off the heated rival Wolverines on their own field, an extra inning dramatic come from behind victory against Minnesota late into the Friday evening, capped off with the heroics of the championship game versus the Gophers. The heights and efforts we saw on those four days in May will are and will be unrivaled.

A key cog in the Buckeye machine, providing to be an inspiration, showing dedication, and giving every ounce of effort was captain Jacob Howell. Howell throughout his career battled injuries, but continued to rise to the occasion and do all that he could while wearing the Scarlet and Gray. Howell ended his career ninth all-time with 693 at-bats, 11th in hits with 293, and first in triples with 13.

In catching up with former Buckeyes, who without them being a Buckeye would not nearly mean as much as it does for the present day Buckeye nine, I was able to catch up with Jacob Howell as he lets us know what he has been up to since leaving Ohio State after that 2007 season, what it meant for him to call Bill Davis home, and just what occurred and went into his inspirational run during the 2007 Big Ten Tournament.

B9:First in the two years since OSU, what all has been going on? Marriage, careers, etc.

JH: A ton of exciting things have happened in the past two years. Right after Pami and I graduated in 2007 from OSU, we got married and moved to New York City for my Teach For America training. I taught 6th grade summer school in the Bronx. In September I started teaching 5th grade in Brooklyn. We were there until this past June, when my two-year commitment ended, and headed upstate to the Adirondacks, where I was the Director of Baseball at Raquette Lake Boys Camp. We moved back to Columbus a week and a half ago, and are tremendously excited to be back to Buckeye Country.

B9: And what are you up to now being back in Columbus

JH: I’ve been catching up on lost time with friends and family, and have been actively searching for a position in public relations, marketing or education.

B9: As you're moving back, after the Teach for America commitment, are you currently about where you would have liked to be?

JH: Teach For America was an absolutely amazing experience, especially right after getting married. I loved my time with my students, and really miss them. In our down time Pami and I were able to take in all NYC has to offer, and lived the city life for a bit, but it’s so great to be back to Columbus. We were definitely ready.

B9: You litter the Ohio State record books having put together one of the finest careers as a Buckeye, did you feel or anticipate you might get a shot at pro ball after the 2007 season?

JH: I think more than anything, any individual success I encountered was a testament to the astounding talent that surrounded me every time I stepped on the field. I roamed the outfield with guys like Angle, Hurley, Dew, Rabin, and Caravati, all of whom were (and are) amazing athletes. We were a brotherhood that had each other’s back no matter what, and we thrived off of competing with each other daily. My memories with them are something I’ll have forever. Professionally, I think I might have had a shot with one of the teams, but my body was kind of falling apart. Between stress fractures in my shins, a pulled hamstring and a bum shoulder, it was time to hang it up. Timing-wise, it worked out perfectly with Teach For America, so I had to take advantage of the opportunity.

B9: As you mention some of your former teammates, it feels just like yesterday where you leading off the Bucks lineup keying an unbelievable 2007 Big Ten Tourney run, now that you're two years removed do you have any different feelings or emotions about your time as a Buckeye that didn't sink in right away?

JH: When you’re in the midst of competition and the incessant work it takes to perform at a high level, it’s easy to forget how fast time flies and how quickly your time as a Buckeye passes. I made a point to take time on a regular basis to pause and reflect on the events taking place, so I was able to appreciate how blessed I was to don the Scarlet and Gray each day, but it doesn’t hit you until after you’re gone how incredibly fast it all goes by. Enjoy every single minute.

B9: Do any moments stick out more than others that you had in a Scarlet & Gray uniform?

JH: My first at bat as a Buckeye is one of my most memorable plate appearances. We were playing at Minute Made Park (home of the Houston Astros) vs. Kansas State; I pinch-hit in the sixth inning, and hit a triple down the left field line. I’ll never forget how hard my heart was pumping. Another big memory is beating Michigan the final time we saw them my senior year in the Big Ten Tournament, and then of course beating Minnesota in 2007 to take the Big Ten Tournament title as the last seed, moving onto the regional in College Station.

B9: Are you able to keep up with the program as well as some of your former teammates?

JH: In Brooklyn, I kept tabs on the boys and watched their progress throughout the seasons. When Dan DeLucia, Jed Stephen and Matt Angle played the Brooklyn Cyclones at Coney Island, Pami and I got to see them. In terms of keeping contact, I tried to call guys as much as possible and stay in touch, but it was difficult being so far away. Now that we’re back in town, I’m excited to get back in touch with my buddies and spend more time with them, especially my former roommates like Jedidiah and Kris Moorman.

B9: For the newer fans of the program, as well as those of quite some time, you went through one of the most inspirational times, briefly discuss the last month for you in May 2007, not only with you carrying the Bucks to a championship, but how the off the field ongoings impacted that?

JH: That was a special time, one with a myriad of emotions that I’ll never forget. We call it the story of 11 (my number as a Buckeye). My sister nearly died May 11, when she collapsed from a brain aneurysm. To make a long story short, she survived and made a miraculous recovery on the 11th floor of OSU’s medical center and was released 11 days later. She was able to come watch us in the Big Ten Tournament where she got a standing ovation from the crowd when she arrived. On Friday night, we were playing the Gophers and were tied going into extra innings. In the 11th inning, I came up with a runner on third, and at 11:11 pm, I (#11) drove in the winning run to go to the championship game, which we won the next day with Hannah in the stands.

B9: What message would you pass along to current and future Ohio State baseball players?

JH: You have an opportunity that millions of little kids dream of, so enjoy every single practice and game, because it doesn’t last forever. Use the platform you have as a student-athlete at The Ohio State University for good, represent the university in a manner that you’ll be proud of forever. No matter how many games you win or lose, it’s the way you conduct yourself that people will remember most.

The Buckeye Nine greatly thanks and appreciates Jacob for taking the time to fill us in with his post-OSU experiences, as well as reliving some memorable moments from yesteryear.

1 comment:

BaseballBucks33 said...

Great job Chris,that was an awesome interview with Jacob. I always enjoyed watching #11 play for the Buckeyes and it sounds like he is doing good things these days. That was my 1st trip to Ann Arbor to watch the Bucks play in the Big Ten tourny and it was so much fun when Mike Arp won the game with a (pinch-hit) RBI double. What an awesome week that was for sure and a great moment in OSU baseball history. That was a weird season to say the least but the ending was GREAT!