By this point in his professional baseball career, Jake Goebbert knows the routine. And all of the pat answers.
As with all ballplayers, he says spring training represents a fresh start. A new beginning. Another chance to prove that a career minor leaguer deserves a shot to reach the major leagues.
But at age 26, Goebbert knows, too, that each spring also represents another year of getting older. Even though he will enter his third straight big league camp when the Oakland A’s position players report for spring training in Arizona this month, Goebbert knows nothing is guaranteed.
The Hampshire graduate who played collegiately at Northwestern spent the past two spring camps with the Houston Astros before being traded to the A’s last season. Goebbert has spent parts of the past three seasons in Triple-A, the final obstacle standing between him and his first big league call-up.
His numbers last year were solid. After playing 105 games at Double-A Midland (Texas), where he belted 18 home runs and had 75 RBIs while hitting .268, Goebbert finished the season at Triple-A Sacramento after proving himself as a reliable everyday performer.
Although the big leagues have eluded him so far, Goebbert heads into an A’s minicamp ahead of spring training knowing what to expect.
“Absolutely it’s frustrating (not to have gotten a chance at the majors), but right now my goal is to have an Opening Day starting spot every day in Triple-A and take it from there,” Goebbert said. “I feel like I’m at a point in my career when I know what needs to be done.
“Now, it’s on me to perform and earn a position.”
Goebbert’s 126 games in the A’s organization last year gave him the chance to get an up-close look at a team known for putting more stock in future potential than in a player’s blue-chip stock. Goebbert repeatedly is asked whether the A’s really resemble the organization popularized by Michael Lewis’ book “Moneyball”, which was later made into a major motion picture starring Brad Pitt.
“It is to some extent,” he said. “But that’s how all of baseball is now.”
A’s minor league officials, including Goebbert’s manager in Sacramento, Steve Scarsone, were not available for comment for this story.
Spending time with two A’s minor league teams last year provided Goebbert enough time to understand that he fits a niche with the organization. As difficult as it was to leave the Astros, the only team he had played with during his baseball career, finding a new home also gave Goebbert a chance to make a name for himself.
Spring training gives him another chance to prove he belongs. But unlike playing at the Single-A and Double-A levels that he played at earlier in his career, Goebbert knows the stakes get higher now that he has a track record in Triple-A.
“We’re there to win and to put up numbers,” he said. “So it’s been a fun challenge and a good opportunity.”
Other than a few organizational differences, Goebbert doesn’t expect his third big league spring training to be much diffrent than his first two. He will head to camp feeling more confident in his power numbers and his ability to be more aggressive in hitters’ counts. Completing the process of taking the final step, Goebbert said, becomes more mental than physical.
His time in big league camps has afforded him the chance to see pitching at every level. As comfortable as Goebbert is with his swing and his approach to becoming a more consistent power hitter, what’s left is making the mental adjustments he feels are necessary in proving to the A’s that he could perform on Oakland’s 40-man roster at some point in the near future.
But that, he realizes, is something he has no control over.
“If I go out and hit .340, there’s no telling what will happen,” Goebbert said. “Even if I have an average year, I think it’s been good enough to hopefully earn an opportunity at some point. But those questions aren’t up to me. I try to spend as little time as possible thinking about those questions.
“I just try to go out and do my job and perform to the best of my abilities and whatever comes, comes.”