Feature: Baseball's Jason Cooper
March 28, 2002
When asked to choose one word to describe himself as an athlete, Jason Cooper chose 'determined'. Each season, he has faced high expectations, including comments by Stanford head coach Mark Marquess that Cooper has the best power at the plate he has seen at Stanford. This season, he is putting what he has learned during his Stanford career into practice and is determined to play at the level of his own expectations and do whatever he can to help the team win.
He leads Stanford with a .449 batting average and 27 RBI, while ranking second with five homers through the first 22 games of 2002. He currently has a career-high 14-game hit streak, going 26-for-54 (.481) with five doubles, five homers and 20 RBI during the stretch. The preseason First Team All-American has also registered a team-high 35 hits with six doubles, a .488 on-base percentage and a .718 slugging percentage.
'Individually, I think the most important thing has been for me just to be back in the lineup and 100% healthy,' he says. 'Just being able to go out and play baseball every day - that's what been really important for me.'
In the second game of the season (a 17-1 win over Cal State Fullerton), he was 4-for-4 with four RBI to lead Stanford to its first of seven consecutive series wins. Over the first 14 games, he continued to established himself as a consistent hitter and led the club with a .417 batting average. Still, the power-hitter did not go deep until finally clearing the fences versus Cal Poly (3/2). Then, two games later Cooper exploded in a non-conference game at California (3/8), going 5-for-5 (career-high five hits) with his first two-homer game at Stanford and four RBI.
'What can I say, I felt pretty good,' said Cooper of his big day. 'I definitely felt relaxed, and I thought that my approach was what it needed to be. I got some good pitches to hit, and I took advantage of them.'
He went on to hit another home run in the rubber game of the series, finishing the three-game set with three homers and seven hits in 12 at-bats for a series batting average of .583. 'I think I started to feel really good again during the California series,' said Cooper, who missed all of the team's 2001 fall practice season with a shoulder injury. 'I am just now getting back into everything and finally feeling healthy enough to play the way I know I can.'
Often forced to play as a designated hitter in his first two-plus years due to injury, Cooper has used the opportunity to learn what he needs to do to improve as a player.
'Spending time as the designated hitter is kind of tricky,' commented Cooper. 'At times, you're right in the middle of the game, but for the most part you're on the bench cheering on everybody else. It takes an extra effort to remain focused. Studying both other hitters and our pitchers has helped me to analyze my own swing mechanics and work to understand how pitchers approach hitters.'
With this season going so well, Cooper is dedicated more than ever to being a full-time contributor to the team. He has been determined this year to lead by example and show his team that he will do whatever it takes to help it succeed.
'I'm just trying to play hard every day regardless of whether I'm doing poorly or well,' emphasized Cooper. 'College baseball is so team-oriented. When it gets down to crunch time in the playoffs, we're going to have to be 100% positive as a team, and we're going to need everybody to play to their potential for us to win the College World Series. Anything I can do to help the team win, I'm going to do it.'
So far, Cooper's done a lot.
by Erin Walker