May 18, 2004
Mark Jecmen came to Stanford prior to the 2002 season as one the most heralded incoming pitchers in recent memory and with a fastball approaching the mid-90's. His enormous potential immediately placed him in the team's starting rotation, but things didn't go quite the way he had hoped. Jecmen ended up losing his first three starts and only made two more the rest of the season, both coming in mid-week games. He finished his freshman campaign with a 1-4 record and an unimpressive 8.26 ERA in 28.1 innings.
It would have been easy for Jecmen to walk around with his head down, but he did just the opposite, even though things got worse in his sophomore season when he pitched only 8.2 innings over nine appearances (one start). He did manage to win his only decision and post a 5.19 ERA in limited action, but once went over two months without pitching in a game.
'A bad experience can really help you out because you learn how to deal with the difficulties of not playing well,' said Jecmen. 'The hardest part about baseball are the ups and downs of the sport, and how you handle that. You have to make adjustments, learn what you did wrong and fix it in future. That's the most important thing you can do in baseball, and that's what will help me out in the future.'
Flash forward to the present, more than two years removed from those first three losses, and Jecmen is showing glimpses of what he hopes is a bright future.
Professional baseball scouts analyzing talent for the 2004 MLB First-Year Player Draft next month covet his potential and mid-90's fastball. They also hope that what they have seen in recent outings is a sign of things to come.
Jecmen has looked sharp of late, allowing just three earned runs (all in the same game) and striking out 14 batters in his last 8.2 innings over nine appearances.
'I've been feeling good lately and making adjustments in order to be successful. The biggest improvement I've made is learning how to throw more pitches. You have to do that to get guys out. I've become more of a pitcher rather than just trying to throw hard.'
'I've developed a lot because of the coaching staff at Stanford and the teammates I've had over the past three years. Even though I haven't been able to pitch as much as I would like, it has worked out because people have been able to see me pitch and hopefully they like what they see.'
The positive attitude that the talented Jecmen has portrayed throughout his collegiate career now seems to be paying dividends.
'A positive attitude can make things work out for you. I've learned that you need to work hard and be dedicated. (Stanford head) Coach (Mark) Marquess drills that in you from day one. That's one of the biggest things I'll take with me.'
Jecmen hopes he will take 'that' into the world of professional baseball and apply it to the final stretch of his junior season.
'This is a very exciting time for me with both the draft and the postseason coming up. It has always been a dream of mine to play professional baseball and Omaha is the most exciting baseball experience I've ever been involved with. I just hope we are able to take care of business at home in the next couple of series and have the advantage of hosting the Regionals and Super Regionals.'
If for some reason professional baseball does not work out in the future for the six-foot eight-inch right-hander, he has a few other thoughts running through his head.
'I'm interested in entertainment and politics. I wouldn't mind having a job in one of those two areas.'
Jecmen's ideal occupation outside of baseball would be as a film director. He enjoys the work of Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore) and the legendary Steven Spielberg.
'This isn't necessarily what I'm going to do (if professional baseball doesn't work out), but I do have an interest in it.'
Jecmen and fellow pitcher David O'Hagan have even planted the seeds for what would truly be a Hollywood story as the two have tooled around with a few film ideas while shagging balls during batting practice, although Jecmen admits that 'we haven't come up with anything bonafide to put into writing yet.'
How about the best of both worlds -- directing an autobiography on the life of a professional baseball player.
Jecmen would love the chance to direct that one.
by Kyle McRae