Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Mariners Jesse Hodges was the last man standing so-to-speak, as he was the lone BC-based player selected to the final roster for the Canadian Junior National baseball team that begins play this week at the IBAF 18U World Championships August 30th-September 8th in Seoul, South Korea. ISN’s Christian J. Stewart caught up with Hodges during his travels to Seoul for an exclusive interview.
In August of 2004, a young, freckle-faced 10-year old named Jesse Hodges took to the mound at the BC Minor Baseball Mosquito Provincial “A” Championships in Rutland, BC near Kelowna and proceeded to blow away the competition, leading his team, the Victoria Rebels, to the first, and still only, Mosquito level Provincial title for a Victoria based team.
Victoria’s Jesse Hodges is the lone BC player to make the final roster of the 2012 Canadian Junior National team (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
Eight years and many medals and accolades later, Hodges, now a 6’1″ 210 lb 18-year old, will be hoping to lead his newest team – the Canadian National Junior squad – to a gold medal at the IBAF 18U World Championships in Seoul, South Korea.
Hodges, a recent graduate from Lambrick High School in Victoria, played with the Victoria Mariners of the BCPBL this past season where he hit .341 in 37 games, compiling eight doubles, two home runs and 33 RBIs. Hodges also took to the mound every so often for the Mariners, compiling a 4-2 record with a 2.55 ERA, striking out 28 in 24.2 innings.
When he was not with the Mariners, Hodges was with the National Junior team, participating in their extensive training and selection process which began with a 10-day camp in March in St. Petersburg, Florida and then subsequent camps that were held in Orlando, Florida in April and the Dominican Republic in May, and then the team’s final selection camps in Toronto and recently, Ronchi dei Legionari, Italy.
Hodges is honoured to be the only BC player on the Junior National team (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
Hodges, who earlier in the selection camps enjoyed the company of two other BC players – Clayton Isherwood and Mitchell Robinson – is thrilled to be the lone representative from BC on a team that is stacked with all but four Ontario based players. “It is actually quite the honour because I feel as if I’m representing all of the people from my home province, as well as all the people who have been there throughout my life and supported me in my baseball career. I will play my heart out for them, as I feel they should be rewarded with nothing less then a gold medal.”
While Hodges has enjoyed numerous “highlight reel” events in his baseball career including success at both Provincial and National championships, being able to put on a jersey with the name of his country on it tops all of them. “Every time I put on the Canadian jersey, my hair stands on end and I am overcome with a feeling of pride, because all the hard work I have put in throughout my years of baseball is finally paying off.”
A .341 hitter with the Mariners this season, Hodges should get his fair share of at bats with the Juniors at the World’s in Seoul (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
“Playing on the world stage is what athletes live for, other then becoming a professional player I guess,” added Hodges. “When you have the chance to represent your country, it feels like you are on top of the world, that you are untouchable and that nothing can stop you from doing whatever you need to do to get the win for your country.”
His baseball skills have taken Hodges across Canada and when the World’s are done, he will have travelled completely around the world, but it was an excursion to Florida that stands out the most. “I have been lucky enough to play baseball in the Dominican Republic, Italy and now Seoul, South Korea and while all of these places have been awesome, it was my first trip to Florida, when we lined up along the foul line, took off our hats, faced the flag and the Canadian anthem played, that I swear to this day that the anthem never sounded more beautiful in my life.”
Hodges baseball travels will continue after the World’s as well, as he moves on to attend college at Grayson College in Dennison, Texas.
Hodges and his Junior National teammates will hold a practice on Wednesday prior to opening the 12-team tournament on August 30th against Panama at 5am ET at Mokdong Stadium.
Hodges strong throwing arm will likely be utilized at third base by the National squad (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
Canada will compete in Pool B where they will play a round-robin schedule against Panama, Japan, Italy, Chinese Taipei and the Czech Republic.
Pool A consists of host South Korea, Australia, Colombia, Netherlands, USA and Venezuela.
At the conclusion of the first round, the top three records in each pool will play each other in crossover games. The teams will be seeded one to six with their first round record against teams also in round two counting in the standings.
Once round two is completed the top two seeds will play for gold, while third and fourth place will play for bronze and the fifth and sixth seeds will meet in the fifth place match-up.
Canada is coming off a fourth place finish at the 2010 IBAF 18U World Championship that was held in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Canada’s last medal at an IBAF 18U World Championship came in 2006 when a club led by Brett Lawrie defeated Mexico 6-2 to claim the bronze medal.
Hodges, who will most likely occupy third base for the National squad, passes along thanks to all his friends and family in Victoria for support. Hodges father Steve, who himself made it to the minor pro levels, and his Grandfather Lowell, well-known in Victoria baseball circles, have played a key role on the baseball side, but Hodges also credits his Mom for her support. “The key reason all of this success has happened for me is because of my family. They drive me every day to reach my main goal in life, which is to play in the major leagues. If it was not for them, I wouldn’t be half the man and player I am today. I want to especially thank my Mother, as no matter the ups and downs, I know she will always be there for me.”
You can follow Hodges and the Junior National Team at the Worlds via the IBAF web site at http://www.ibaf.org.