One look at him and you would never guess he plays baseball. You would be more prone to say he works in the back woods or is a carpenter that lost his razor and shaving cream. But once he steps on the mound, all doubt leaves your mind.
Of course, I’m talking about Jake Waugh. The young pitcher for the Fredericton Peterbilt DQ Royals is in the middle of his fifth season with the Royals, and it is turning out to be one of his best statistically. Eight games into the season Waugh currently has 3 wins, 1 save, a tidy 2.76 ERA, and 14 strikeouts in 12.2 innings pitched.
“Those wins are hard to explain. They could go one way or the other,” said a modest Waugh about this year’s success. “You get put in those tight situations, which I live and play for. Things have worked out for me, and I’ve been fortunate, fortunate to have a good team.”
Waugh has never been short on talent, but what he has been short on is accreditation. Sometimes Waugh’s talents have been overshadowed by the offensive talent that the Royals hold, which has led some to see him as the “Unsung MVP” of the team. In just his second year being a Royal Waugh was given the Matt Stairs Unsung Hero award, which has proven to be one his proudest moments on the team.
Never one to take credit or be in the spotlight, Waugh is quick to give praise to everyone else on the team for his success. When asked about his achievements since joining the Royals his first answers were all about the team, first naming the 5 consecutive provincial championships the team has won.
Being a young guy on a team full of veterans can sometimes be intimidating, but Waugh credits veteran John Burns for making it a smooth transition for him.
“Without a doubt it was John Burns. He has been a mentor to me the whole way through. I admire the way he carries himself as a man and as a pitcher. Very respectful. When he’s on the mound, he’s got the edge that you can just see in his eyes that he’s going to get the next guy out.”
Burns has been on the team long enough to know when a kid has talent and all the necessary tools to become a great player. It didn’t take him long to realize that all those qualities were in Waugh.
“When he first came up he had all the natural talent that he needed to succeed,” said Burns about Waugh’s first impression. “However, Jake’s greatest attribute is his willingness to listen and improve. He has a great understanding of the game and by listening to some of us older players he has really given himself a huge advantage.
“Most young pitchers get intimidated in big situations, but Jake always wants the ball no matter the situation.”
This was epitomized on June 14th against the Moncton Mets. Usually a starting pitcher, Waugh came into the game in the eighth inning with one out, and proceeded to pitch the final inning and two thirds to get one of his wins. It wasn’t just his pitching that were impressive, it was his approach at the plate that made showed Jake’s versatility. With runners on first and third and in his first at bat of the year, Waugh didn’t hesitate to throw down a suicide squeeze to win the game for his team.
That’s just the kind of player Waugh is. He is going to leave it all on the line, and do the job right. That’s just the way he was raised.
“My father taught me when I was a child if you’re going to do a job, do it right. And I’m only doing my job as a pitcher if I’m going to get that guy out.”