As 21-year-old pitcher and first baseman Jake Fishman looks at the list of players who have recently won the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award, which goes to the best amateur baseball player in America, he struggles to grasp the magnitude of it all.
Third baseman Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs (2013).
Pitcher Trevor Bauer of the Cleveland Indians (2011).
Outfielder Bryce Harper (2010) and pitcher Stephen Strasburg (2009) of the Washington Nationals.
San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (2008).
Now Fishman of Union College — yes, Union College — is under consideration for that same award.
He is one of 60 players named to the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award 60-player midseason watch list, which was announced last week.
“I’m definitely surprised,” said Fishman, a junior. “I can’t be thankful enough to be on the list. It’s still crazy to wrap my head around it and believe that I’m actually on the list. It’s a real honor to be with some of those other guys on there.”
Not only making the list is an honor for Fishman, he is in rarefied air. Fishman is just one of two non-NCAA Division I baseball players named, and the only one from Division III. The other is Blake Rutherford, a senior at Chaminade College Preparatory in Los Angeles. Only two non-Division I players have ever won the Golden Spikes: Harper and former MLB pitcher Alex Fernandez (1990) were in junior college.
“It means the world to me,” Fishman said. “It’s really just insane to me. I try to use it as a confidence booster as opposed to letting it get to my head.”
Fishman’s statistics are worthy of consideration for the Golden Spikes.
Before the Dutchmen’s four-game series at St. Lawrence over the weekend, Fishman led Division III in ERA (0.32) and strikeouts per nine innings (14.79). He was seventh in D-III in strikeout-to-walk ratio (11.50) and 11th in walks and hits in innings pitched (0.82). Fishman also ranked third among D-III active career leaders in ERA (1.61), tied for sixth in shutouts (four), fourth in batting average (.440) and fifth in on base percentage (.506).
“It’s unbelievable for Union College and our program,” Union coach Paul Mound said. “He’s the only Division III player that’s actually on that list. You look at that list, and it’s a pretty impressive list. I see names like Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant, Stephen Strasburg, and I’m saying that I’ve got a Union College player that’s right in the mix with these names. It’s pretty impressive.”
The left-handed hitting and throwing Fishman can do it all. He has had at least one hit in 22 of the 26 games he has played. He has committed just two errors and has a .989 fielding percentage.
On the mound, Fishman has been masterful. He struck out a career-high 18 against Rochester on April 16. Fishman opened the season with a 15-strikeout performance against St. Olaf on March 20.
Fishman pitched the Dutchmen to their only victory in their four-game Liberty League series at St. Lawrence over the weekend. He allowed two runs (one earned) on eight hits to lead the Dutchmen to a 9-2 victory. Fishman struck out five and walked three.
While he enjoys playing first base, Fishman loves to pitch.
“I really focus on pitching with all of my work,” Fishman said. “I let whatever happens with the hitting. That’s the correct approach to take. It’s been successful for me because hitting’s really a mental game. You take the approach of I’m just going to do what I do, and it leads to a consistent outcome.”
How did such a talented player like Fishman escape the Division I recruiters while playing for Sharon (Mass.) High School? Fishman has a simple explanation.
“I was a late bloomer out of high school,” Fishman said. “I hit college, and I got a lot stronger. I put on a lot of weight. That’s really led me to be successful.”