Pirates' New First Baseman: ‘Never Give An At-Bat Away’

Pirates leadoff hitter John Jaso is ready for the challenges that come with a new team and a new position.




photo courtesy of pittsburgh pirates

 

On a distressingly cold April 3, the Pittsburgh Pirates trotted onto the PNC Park field not only to begin their own campaign, but also to throw the first pitch of the 2016 season across all of Major League Baseball. The nationwide audience that tuned in to this opening tilt between the Bucs and the St. Louis Cardinals saw many of the same Pirates who had suited up for 2015’s opening contest: Andrew McCutchen, Gregory Polanco, Starling Marte, Francisco Cervelli.

At first base, though, a 32-year-old, dreadlocked Californian was making his first regular-season appearance for the Pirates.

John Jaso is the Pirates’ eighth opening-day first baseman in as many years. Even as much of the lineup has solidified by way of maintained success, the Pirates’ quest to place an effective fielder with an impactful bat at first has continued for close to a decade.

So what might separate John Jaso from the conga line of bygone first basemen who preceded him? Why should Pirates fans expect that he’ll do better than (take a deep breath, now) Pedro Alvarez, Travis Ishikawa, Gaby Sanchez, Garrett Jones, Lyle Overbay, Jeff Clement or Adam LaRoche?

“I heard a quote from Pete Rose which I think kind of sums it up — he never wants to give an at-bat away,” Jaso says. That translates to a career on-base percentage of .360; among Pirates with ample appearances, only McCutchen and Cervelli topped that mark in 2015.

Jaso’s ability to tenaciously work deep into counts and draw walks helped to make him an alluring solution for the Pirates, who signed him as a free agent in December. Manager Clint Hurdle began the season with Jaso batting leadoff; despite lacking some of the speed typical of a leadoff hitter, Hurdle wanted to increase the likelihood that McCutchen and new third baseman David Freese would come to bat with a Pirates player already prowling the basepaths.

“I’m looking for him just to be the on-base guy that he’s been in the past,” Hurdle says.

First is not Jaso’s natural position; with the Tampa Bay Rays, Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics, he appeared mostly as a catcher. Injuries drove him away from the position; he experienced difficulty recovering after concussions suffered as a result of balls fouled into his mask. His recovery brought him to Pittsburgh long before he joined the Pirates; he was treated by Dr. Michael “Micky” Collins, the director of UPMC’s Sports Medicine Concussion Program. “He was just giving me a lot of very sound advice,” Jaso says. “And data that he’s collected has helped me process what I’m going through and what my brain is going through.”

Despite playing more at first during the Pirates’ opening game than he had in his entire career to that point, Jaso approached his new position with mellow confidence. Former Bucs first baseman Kevin Young mentored Jaso through the spring, helping him to change tendencies that had become second nature over years spent behind the plate. The goal, he says, was simply “breaking [old] habits and getting to where I’m comfortable setting up like this. Not even thinking about it.”

A glance at the season results for two of Jaso’s recent clubs will reveal some similarities with his new team. The Athletics lost a Divisional-round playoff series in 2013 and a Wild Card game in 2014, just as the Pirates did. The Rays bowed out in Divisional series in 2010 and ’11. Jaso has seen young, smart teams succeed and qualify for the postseason — without making it to the World Series.

Reflecting on those experiences, Jaso does not bemoan opportunities lost; rather, he remembers those successes as exciting and encouraging. He says the reward of October baseball provides plenty of motivation, regardless of the result. “It’s just a challenge as a group and a great accomplishment as a group to have that feeling,” he says. “You want it again. It gives you something to play for.”  
 

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in July

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in July

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Host an event in Pittsburgh’s urban sustainable homestead. Join a club for mushroom hunters. Tour a coal mine. Listen to some banjo music. We list our new favorite experiences, food, drink, personalities, stores, items and activities in the ’Burgh.
Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Fourteen years ago this month, the mighty Kinzua Viaduct met its match.
Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

The restaurant, run by Dinette’s Sonja J. Finn, boosts the dining experience at the Carnegie museums in Oakland.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Can You Really Learn CPR in Pittsburgh in Five Minutes?

Can You Really Learn CPR in Pittsburgh in Five Minutes?

We put two of our interns to the test at the Carnegie Science Center.
Important Things to Know About the Furries

Important Things to Know About the Furries

The Furries are in Pittsburgh this weekend for their annual convention. We’ve got a list of do’s and don’ts to make them feel welcome.
Pittsburgh Workers Use the Most Vacation Time in the Country

Pittsburgh Workers Use the Most Vacation Time in the Country

Project: Time Off reports that just 40 percent of Pittsburghers end the year with unused vacation time.
Duck Donuts Opens Its First Pittsburgh-Area Location

Duck Donuts Opens Its First Pittsburgh-Area Location

The shop promises a “taste of the Outer Banks” without the 9-hour drive.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in July

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in July

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Best of the 'Burgh 2017

Host an event in Pittsburgh’s urban sustainable homestead. Join a club for mushroom hunters. Tour a coal mine. Listen to some banjo music. We list our new favorite experiences, food, drink, personalities, stores, items and activities in the ’Burgh.
Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Daytripping: The ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’

Fourteen years ago this month, the mighty Kinzua Viaduct met its match.
Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

Restaurant Review: The Café Carnegie

The restaurant, run by Dinette’s Sonja J. Finn, boosts the dining experience at the Carnegie museums in Oakland.
Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

Thrive: Smooth Moves While Getting Lost in the Music

FASTER Pittsburghʼs Hip Hop Cardio promises to get your workout into a groove.
Curling in Pittsburgh: ‘It's Basically Golf and Chess on Ice’

Curling in Pittsburgh: ‘It's Basically Golf and Chess on Ice’

On the eve of its largest annual event, the Pittsburgh Curling Club has plans to increase Pittsburgh’s appreciation for its intricate sport.
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Can You Really Learn CPR in Pittsburgh in Five Minutes?

Can You Really Learn CPR in Pittsburgh in Five Minutes?

We put two of our interns to the test at the Carnegie Science Center.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Pusadee's Garden Will Close at End of Year (But Not Forever)

Pusadee's Garden Will Close at End of Year (But Not Forever)

Look for some big changes at the Upper Lawrenceville restaurant, which is expected to shutter for at least a year.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Best Places for Kids on Rainy Days in Pittsburgh

Read on for some under-the-radar ideas on how you and the kids can survive a rainy day this summer.

Comments


Condado Brings the Build-Your-Own Model to Tacos

Condado Brings the Build-Your-Own Model to Tacos

At the new Downtown taco-and-cocktail joint, you can get anything you like atop your tortilla shell — but can your creation stack up to nearby alternatives?

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pittsburgh Pirates Looking for Relief from Their Bullpen

Pittsburgh Pirates Looking for Relief from Their Bullpen

The just-completed, pivotal 10-game stretch began and ended the same way for the Pittsburgh Pirates –– with no one having an answer for the faltering bullpen.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Make the Cut with Jonathan Moran Woodworks

Make the Cut with Jonathan Moran Woodworks

The Strip District-based woodworker's cutting boards can be custom made with the wood of your choice.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Buckle Up ... Again, as Cars 3 Hits Theaters

Buckle Up ... Again, as Cars 3 Hits Theaters

Reviews of "Cars 3" and "47 Meters Down," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Brewing Up Romance: A Couple Comes Together over Beer

Brewing Up Romance: A Couple Comes Together over Beer

See how this couple used their love of beer and breweries to create their special moments.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
New! Black Cherry Design Opens Retail Store

New! Black Cherry Design Opens Retail Store

Lauren Piasecki and Stan Adamik’s brick-and-mortar lifestyle boutique in Lawrenceville carries high-end furniture, lighting, new upholstery, candles, vintage goods and more.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Visit Thiel College for a Summer BBQ

Visit Thiel College for a Summer BBQ

On three days this summer, the college will host visit days for prospective students.

Comments

Edit Module