Although it’s often called “The Mistake on the Lake,” Cleveland’s proximity to the water is something that excites Lake County Captains catcher Jeremy Lucas. In fact, one of his 2013 season goals can only be accomplished because Cleveland has a coast.
“I saw the lake for the first time,” Lucas said of a recent drive that took him down the Shoreway. “By the end of the season, I want to go to the beach.”
While Lake Erie isn’t one of the most scenic beaches in America, it’s still probably for the best that the light-hearted Lucas was drafted by the Indians organization in 2012. Not only can he enjoy the beautiful, sunny shores of the lake, but Lucas is also close to his home state of Indiana. As one of the few Captains’ players hailing from the area surrounding Ohio, Lucas enjoys the fact that his parents and friends have the ability to watch him play and actively follow his career.
“I’ve been here all my life, so I’m comfortable with it,” Lucas said of staying in the Midwest to play baseball. “It’s cool to have my parents be able to come see me, my friends can come see me. It’s just cool to be somewhere that you know, that you’re comfortable with, where people can come see you play.”
Lucas was originally drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 35th round of the 2009 First Year Player Draft out of West Vigo High School, but chose not to sign, a decision he made for a number of reasons.
“There was one guy in high school that saw me play – he was just a local area scout, didn’t have much say in the Orioles organization,” Lucas said of his first experience with the draft. “He would call me every once in a while after he saw me play in high school and say, ‘We’re interested in you.’ I didn’t really think too much of it, because I figured he didn’t have much say.
“But then, he had another guy come with him to watch me play, and they really liked me. They said, ‘You never know; watch the draft on the third day – you might hear your name.’ I didn’t think anything of it again. I didn’t think I was good enough. And, sure enough, I turn on the third day and they called my name.
“I was really excited; I called my dad and we were really excited. They called me and told me they drafted me. They didn’t really have much money to offer me and kind of knew that I probably wasn’t going to come. But it was still pretty cool to get drafted!”
Always optimistic, Lucas did not become upset when he didn’t sign with the Orioles, instead using it as motivation.
“It got me into a good summer league,” Lucas said of the aftermath of his original drafting. “It gave me leverage and gave me that drive to want to hear my name again.”
After playing for three years at Indiana State University, Lucas did indeed hear his name in the draft again, this time when being selected by the Indians during the 12th round of the 2012 First Year Player Draft.
The 6’1″, 205-pound righty played his inaugural season with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, where he ended with a .250 average in his 29 games. He drove in eight runs throughout the season, with 22 hits and two home runs.
Lucas appeared in five games for the Akron Aeros this season, where he hit .200 with three hits and five strikeouts. Since joining the Captains roster, however, Lucas’ numbers have jumped.
He is currently hitting .241 in his 23 games with Lake County, including two home runs and 12 RBIs. He has been walked 13 times as compared to 15 strikeouts.
“It’s my first full season, so I’ve been learning a lot,” Lucas said of 2013 so far.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is to take care of yourself,” Lucas says of his movement throughout the different levels of play. “The biggest difference comes in the daily grind of having to play a game every day. It’s important to develop a routine to get yourself ready to play every day because when you play every day, it’s not like you can just show up and walk onto the field every day, ready to play.”
“Me being a catcher, your body breaks down more,” Lucas said. “Quicker than position players, pitchers, everybody.”
Lucas recently played a string of games that had disappointing results, including a hitless streak of five games from May 30 through June 6, but the 22 year-old did not let his struggles get to him.
“When stuff’s not going good for you, you’ve just got to relax and know that it’s going to come around soon enough. That’s what I’ve been going through lately,” Lucas said. “It’s tough to really keep doing the same things and trying not to change anything. I tried to change things, but the best thing you can do is do what got you here, and just keep your same approach and know you’re going to get through the bad times.”
Lucas did get through his bad times, going 2 for 4 during the June 8 game against Bowling Green, including the game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. Although the Captains lost the game in extra innings, Lucas was able to keep them holding on a little longer.
The traditionally upbeat Lucas admitted that the loss to Bowling Green stung a little bit.
“Some unfortunate things happened [during that game],” Lucas said after the June 8 loss. “If you give a team too many extra bases, they’re going to capitalize on that. Some things didn’t go our way, but you can’t dwell on that because you’ve got wake up and play a game tomorrow.”
“When I hit [the home run], I was hoping it would pump up the team,” Lucas said. “But had an unfortunate last inning… But that’s how baseball goes sometimes.”
Lucas’ optimism and ability to look past negative situations will prove helpful as the season continues for the struggling Captains. Knowing that every day gives the team a chance to bring a win back to Eastlake is exactly the kind of thought process needed when faced with the worst record in the league.
“I want to have a successful season, get better, and learn a lot,” Lucas said of where he hopes 2013 will take him. “I want to control the things I can control. I realize some things are out of my hands. But I’m going to play hard and get better at everything I can.”
As long as he can keep his positive attitude and optimistic spirit, there’s no doubt that Lucas has a strong season ahead of him – but here’s to hoping he sticks around Lake County long enough to get to the beach.
Photo: Jesse Piecuch/DTTWLN photographer