Meeting High Expectations
March 1, 2001
Position: Outfielder/Deignated Hitter
Hometown:Moses Lake, WA
High School: Moses Lake HS
The expectations were high when Jason Cooper began his Stanford Baseball career last season. He was the highest pick of the June 1999 Amateur Baseball Draft (2nd round, 63rd overall, Philadelphia Phillies) that did not sign a professional baseball contract. Stanford head coach Mark Marquess remarked that Cooper possibly had the best power he had ever seen during his tenure at Stanford.
Immediately, Cooper stepped into the starting lineup as the team's opening day designated hitter and hit a home run in his second game as a Cardinal. Cooper would hit another home run at Florida State five games later but the highlights were few and far between after that. He eventually lost his starting job and finished the season with a .189 batting average, striking out 32 times in 74 at bats.
This year, things have been much different.
Cooper has emerged as one of Stanford's top hitters with a team-high six home runs, 16 RBI and a .344 batting average through the club's first 17 games, performing duties as the club's cleanup hitter. He has been on fire in his last five games, going 11-for-21 (.524) with a three doubles, two homers and six RBI. Cooper has been consistent all season, hitting safely in 14 of 17 contests.
What's been the difference?
'I came to Stanford as a freshman and thought I could contribute right away,' said Cooper. 'But, I didn't make a whole lot of adjustments to my swing to face college pitching. That was a mistake. I needed to work with the coaches on my fundamentals. This year, the thing that's really helped me the most is accepting that in order for my swing to work at the college level, I needed to make some changes.'
'I have worked on a more compact stride and swing,' continued Cooper. 'I'm also trying to start my hands a little bit higher. Last year, when I crouched more, it was tough to get to the ball sometimes. I've basically just tried to shorten my swing, keep my eyes up and my head level. These are little things that are tough for any player to change because once you get comfortable with a swing, you never like to change. But, if you are willing to make a few changes and sacrifice a bit, it's going to pay off in the long run.'
'Jason has matured as a person and a player, and it's showing,' added Stanford head coach Mark Marquess. 'It was a rough year for him last season. There were real high expectations and he struggled, but in fairness to him it was tough playing on a veteran team with a lot of pressure on him. He really worked hard at making some minor corrections and has been very effective for us.'
Cooper began to think about making changes as he lingered on the Cardinal bench towards the end of last season and started applying them last summer while playing for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in the Cape Cod League.
'I decided that with swinging a wood bat in the Cape Cod League I would have to shorten my swing anyway,' remembered Cooper. 'I needed to make these changes and this was a good time to work on it. I worked on it there and when I came back, the Stanford coaches were pretty pleased with some of the things I was doing.'
Cooper also had a much different fall practice season than what he experienced as a freshman when he was a backup punter on the football team and spent most of his time on the gridiron with limited baseball activities. Cooper didn't play much baseball this fall either due to an injured shoulder but was able to be around his teammates and their practice sessions most of the time.
'When I was able to step back into the game, I wasn't so rusty,' Cooper said of his fall experience, which included studying pitchers from behind the plate during workouts and intrasquad games. The other thing is that in my first year I didn't really get to know a lot of my teammates early on. It was a hard a situation, and I didn't handle it in the best way. But, I learned from it.'
Cooper's sophomore season has not been all roses either, but his learning curve remains high. He had a tough six-game stretch in back-to-back series versus Cal State Fullerton and Texas, going 4-for-22. But, he did still manage to contribute a pair of home runs and four RBI. He also went hitless in only two of those games and reached base in all six.
'You have to take each at bat separately and not really worry about a bad series or whatever,' said Cooper of his new approach. 'Last year, it just haunted me all year long.'
This year, those being haunted are the opposing pitchers.
Stanford Athletics Highlights: Has rebounded with an excellent start in his sophomore campaign after a difficult first year as a freshman ... Arguably the team's hottest hitter with five consecutive multiple-hit games, going 11-for-21 (.524) with three doubles, two homers and six RBI over the five-game stretch ... Leads the Cardinal with six home runs, including an inside-the-park version versus Florida State (2/11/00) and a mammoth blast to center field at Cal State Fullerton (2/4/01) ... Also leads the club with 11 walks and 18 strikeouts ... Tied for the team-lead with eight multiple-hit games.
by Kyle McRae