Story by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)
June 8, 2013, Victoria, BC (ISN) - Victoria native Jesse Hodges is by his words, "living the dream" and will formally begin his professional baseball career this summer with the Chicago Cubs Single "A" affiliate Boise Hawks in Idaho.
It has been famously said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step and Victoria's Jesse Hodges has now completed that first step en route to his ultimate journey to make it to the Major League level with his parent club the Chicago Cubs.
Hodges, a graduate of Lambrick Park Secondary School in Victoria and a former player with the Victoria Mariner's Premier Baseball League team, has just completed his first professional spring training camp in Arizona and has been assigned to the Boise Hawks in Idaho, the Cubs Short Season Single "A" affiliate, who begin play on June 14th.
After spending time in the Cubs Fall Instructional league last year after being signed in Korea during Hodges incredible run with the Canadian Junior National Team, Hodges continued his quest at the AAA Spring Training level in Arizona in February.
Despite sitting out for a month with injury, Cubs prospect and Victoria native Jesse Hodges had a successful spring training and will play in the Northwest League with the Boise Hawks this summer (Photo: John Antonoff, Courtesy of Jesse Hodges)
"Spring training was incredible and were some of the longest baseball days of my life," noted Hodges, "but it was worth it for sure. I began with the AAA club for a bit as their main third baseman was up at the Major League camp and they wanted to see how I could do hitting some faster pitching and how I could compete at the higher level."
"I knew I wasn't going to break with the AAA club but I held my own, hitting at a .290 clip or so" added Hodges, "but once their main guy came back down, they sent me back to the Boise camp. This was fine and I began to play very well at that level, hitting around .312 with a home run and six doubles or so."
Like any long journey however, sometimes after a few steps forward, one is required to take one back. Such was the case with Hodges, who right near the end of camp, strained his oblique muscle and had to sit idle for a month while he healed.
"My injury was incredibly frustrating and really pissed me off," said Hodges. "I had never been injured to that degree, and I couldn't do anything at all baseball wise, so it took a bit of a toll on me." "
"The Cubs were great however and I would come to the park every day at 5 AM for treatment and once I was ready to go, I was so excited and ready to get back at it."
Following the injury, Hodges would stay for extended spring training with the Boise squad and would struggle a bit for the first couple of weeks, but then begin to find his groove. "It took me a bit to shake off some of the rust, but I finished camp hitting about .270 with three home runs, six doubles and a couple of triples, playing every game at third base."
Victoria's Jesse Hodges strokes one of the 4 home runs he hit in spring training with the Chicago Cubs Class A affiliate Boise Hawks (Photo: John Antonoff, Courtesy of Jesse Hodges)
Hodges is extremely grateful to have the opportunity to play in Boise. "I am so excited to have been with the Cubs for less than a year and now I have the opportunity to play some meaningful baseball, in front of lots of fans and in games that mean something. I just want to keep working hard and play well in Boise and hopefully I'll get the call up to the Cubs Low A affiliate in Illinois [Kane County Cougars], which would be the next step up the ladder."
Hodges certainly has the tool set to move up the ladder and he seems to have the right attitude as well. When asked how he felt about the Cubs drafting Kris Bryant, a 6'5" third baseman (Hodges position) out of the University of San Diego with the second overall pick in this year's entry draft, he simply said, "He's just another guy that I have to beat out. I've heard they may target him for outfield or first base, but if he stays at third, then he's just another road block that I'll have to work hard to get out of the way."
Victoria baseball fans who want to see Hodges in action with Boise, may have the opportunity to do so, given that the Hawks play in the Northwest League, which includes the Vancouver Canadians, as well as a number of other teams in the Pacific Northwest.
Friends and family who watched Hodges in action in Victoria as a Mariner, may have plenty of opportunity to watch him play professional ball as the Hawks play in the Northwest League, which includes a number of teams in close proximity to Victoria (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)
The Hawks will visit Vancouver in a five game stand from July 10-14th and will be in Everett (near Seattle) for a five game series with the AquaSox beginning July 31st. Other teams in the league (all relatively close to Victoria and Vancouver) include the Eugene Emeralds (OR), Salem Volcanoes (OR), Yakima Bears (WA), Spokane Indians (WA), Tri-City Dust Devils (WA).
Hodges is enjoying a final break here in Victoria today but will fly back to Arizona this evening for a few more days of practice with his Boise teammates, before heading to Eugene for the opening series against the Emeralds on Friday.
For Hodges, that opening series in Eugene will mark yet another of many steps in his journey, one that will hopefully continue some day with that first step into the friendly, ivy-covered walled confines of Wrigley Field in Chicago.