Josh Adams is a toolsy outfielder at Pleasant Grove High in Elk Grove, Calif. Read the following interview to learn more about his football history, playing in the first-annual Boras Classic, and what reality show he could imagine himself on . . .
First off, take us back to the beginning. When did you first start playing baseball, and what was it about the game that really drew you in?
I first started playing baseball I’d say when I was about 5. I started off with tee-ball and it was a lot of fun. I liked being out there, I just liked everything about it. Being out there and playing with my friends was a lot of fun, and I just liked competing. It’s always been a lot of fun for me.
Sure. Now, your father played football at Washington State, and you played football as well. I’ve seen some impressive YouTube clips of you playing football. Did you ever consider going that route instead?
I did. I actually was recruited by all Pac-12 schools. I was recruited a lot for football and then this year I thought about it—you know, my dad actually got hurt playing football—so we thought about it and talked about longevity and my career and what would be best for me, and I decided to go with baseball.
How is the season going for you so far?
The season’s going all right. I started off a little slow. I came off of a great fall. I went to Arizona in the fall for one of the Perfect Game tournaments and I played against Dom Smith’s team, and we actually won that game. I hit a walk-off double to win that, so that was pretty exciting. I started off a little slow, getting used to high school pitching and it’s picking up again. There were a bunch of scouts at my first game of the season and now they’re starting to come back a little bit, so it’s going well.
You had a knee injury that kept you out for a lot of the summer. Are you feeling 100 percent now?
Yeah, I’m right there next to 100 percent, if not 100 percent. My speed is coming back, I’m feeling really well, and I love competing. I work hard and I get after it, so that’s the main thing.
That’s good, because speed is a big part of your game on both sides of the ball.
Yeah, exactly—very important.
Such a big part of the baseball prospect landscape these days is the summer showcase circuit, but you missed a lot of that this summer recovering from your knee surgery. Was that disappointing to you, and what impact do you think that had on your status with the scouts?
It was kind of disappointing, I’d say. I did do the Perfect Game National Showcase, which was an awesome experience. It was awesome to play with guys who will be in pro baseball for sure this year coming up. Area Codes would have been awesome, it would have been cool playing with my friends all summer, but the main thing was getting healthy and getting ready for my season and just getting after it.
What kind of football player were you? What were teams recruiting you for?
They were looking at me to play safety and slot. Basically every team told me I could go both ways. Even when I told teams I wasn’t going to play football, they still told me, ‘Hey, we still have a scholarship for you. You can come here.’ So, it was tough. The biggest thing I had to get used to in baseball was baseball’s not football. So, you can’t just attack, attack, attack. It’s a lot slower, you have to slow it down, so I’ve been learning to do that. I’d describe myself in baseball as tough and competitive. I thrive on challenges. I think I’m a winner and a leader, and I think I can make the kids around me better and I inspire them to be better because of the level I play the game.
That’s what I’ve heard from a lot of guys who play both sports—is just kind of the different mentalities between the two sports. Football is such an aggressive, warrior-kind of sport. But baseball is also super competitive because so much of the game is me versus you, hitter versus pitcher, that kind of thing.
In football, if you mess up on a play, you can hit the next guy in the mouth. Baseball, you’ve got to get used to it, it’s a game of failure. The toughest part is getting used to failing, and being OK with it, and getting up next time and trying to succeed.
You’re committed to UC Santa Barbara. When did they first see you play, and what was it about the school that you liked best?
Originally, Coach (Andrew) Checketts recruited me at University of Oregon. I think my sophomore year is when he saw me. I played in the Rawlings North Showcase, which was a pretty big showcase. NorCal (Baseball) puts it on, which is Rob Bruno, he puts it on. A lot of scouts out there, a lot of colleges, and a lot of good, good pitchers and good players all around. It’s invite-only, so it was really cool. He saw me there, and then I was recruited by University of Oregon, he started recruiting me there, and then when he went to Santa Barbara, he continued. I had a lot of schools looking at me for baseball. My first offer came my freshman year from Oregon State, which was pretty cool, but I wasn’t ready. I wanted to experience some different things, but when I went to Santa Barbara, I just fell in love. It’s on the beach, the baseball program is coming up again, the academics are through the roof, you know? So, it should be a lot of fun, for sure. It’s definitely going to be a challenge to stay focused, but I’m glad I’m going there the to play baseball for Coach Checketts.
Your team recently won the northern section of the first-annual Boras Classic. For a state without a state championship, that’s a pretty cool event to pit some of the best teams against each other. How was that whole experience?
It was awesome. We played some of my best friends—Rowdy Tellez and Dom Nunez at Elk Grove High School. Pleasant Grove and Elk Grove has been a rivalry since Pleasant Grove opened. We played them and it was awesome just to have that state atmosphere. In football, we won a section and we almost went to state, so it was kind of like the same thing. The tournament itself was great. The best teams in Northern California were there, and we got hot when we needed to. I started (on the mound) against Elk Grove and just didn’t throw the last inning because we were up 11-1, but I shoved it pretty good.
That’s awesome. You don’t normally pitch that often, do you?
I did sophomore year. Being lefthanded, it just comes with the territory. I threw for the (San Diego) Show and Brian Cain a little bit in the fall. I see myself as an outfielder and hitter for sure—use my speed to be successful in the field. But, at the end of the day, if something ever goes wrong, I do have pitching to fall back on.
That Elk Grove lineup is pretty stacked with all those guys there. How did you go after them?
Yeah, I mean they’re all great hitters. Nick Madrigal is a stud. Rowdy Tellez is a stud. Dom Nunez is an awesome player, and Derek Hill—they’re all awesome players. You know, I used my experience as a hitter to my advantage. I’ve played with them a lot, so I just kind of kept them guessing. My ball was running a little bit, so it was good. I try to study my opponent and just know what I need to do to get them out.
After you won the northern part of it, you went down and played Mater Dei, who we have as No. 1 in the country. What was that like? How would you kind of compare those two teams?
It was awesome. Mater Dei, I mean when they took BP, they looked really, really good. It was a great game besides the score. We let one inning get away from us, but we had runners on second and third every single inning. I mean, there was not an inning that we didn’t. It could have been a different ballgame if we get those runs in. I think Elk Grove was better. Mater Dei didn’t impress me that much. I know they have guys like Jeremy Martinez and stuff, but we battled. We just let one inning get away from us and they capitalized, and that’s why they’re the No. 1 team in the nation, for sure. It was kind of disappointing because they didn’t really pitch to me. I sac bunted and then I got walked three times after that.
For readers who haven’t seen you play, how would you describe yourself as a player?
I’d describe myself as a competitive guy who always wants to win. I know I won’t be the fastest or strongest guy, but I know I’ll outwork anyone, no matter where they are, who they are. The biggest thing I’ve had to get used to is being OK with failure. In football, you don’t fail that much, and when you do you can make up for it the next play. Three out of 10 is Hall of Fame stats in the big leagues, getting three hits out of 10. Seven times with failure, there’s no other sport where you can do that. I’d describe myself as a hard worker and I’ll do whatever it takes to be the best.
What are you still working to improve?
I’m working to improve just being mature at the plate, I think is the biggest thing. Not playing that much baseball—you know, I’ve always been a good baseball player, but I want to be a great one. Being mature at the plate is the biggest thing. The biggest thing is that I haven’t had that many at-bats compared to some of these other guys who have played every summer circuit since they were 12. So, this summer was awesome, I got to see a lot of good pitchers. A lot of people got to see how I handled the wood against great pitchers. My main goal is not so much to get hits, but just get on base and show my speed, and just show me getting after it. Because I am a competitor and I always know if I’m on the field we have a great chance of winning.
Who would you say is the toughest pitcher you’ve faced so far in your career?
I’d have to say my (fall) teammate Ian Clarkin. He plays for the Show and I faced him at PG National. He was pretty good. He got me. He threw that 94 mph fastball in on my hands and I think I grounded out to first. He’s a stud and he’s a really cool dude. He’s good, for sure.
So even though you live in Elk Grove, you were going down to San Diego to play with the Show?
I played with NorCal, and then I played with the Show a couple times, and as soon as I played one tournament with the Show, I knew that’s where I wanted to play. Brian Cain is probably one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. He’s awesome. I needed some exposure, and I knew they played in a lot of good tournaments, and I played in Christmas, Thanksgiving and MLK down in San Diego, which was awesome. I wanted to play with a great team—even though a lot of the time the great guys like Stephen Gonsalves and Ian Clarkin and Alex Jackson weren’t there because they were taking time off in the fall—it was good to play with other good players that were playing, so that was good.
Do you have a favorite big league team or a favorite player you like to watch?
I like to try to look at guys that I think how I want to be one day when I get in the big leagues. Jay Bruce is one guy that I really admire, and then Josh Hamilton just because of how he came back and battled through all he went through. He made it and came back and he’s one of the best ballplayers in the game.
What about favorite team? Is there a team you grew up rooting for?
The Giants were the hometown team, but I just like players. I like the Reds because Dusty Baker, I know Dusty Baker and he’s an awesome guy, and I just like Jay Bruce.
You really know him, or you just know of him because he was with the Giants?
No, I know Dusty Baker. I’ve talked to him a couple times. His son actually lives out here and I’ve talked to him a couple times at Results, the place where I train. He’s a really cool dude. And then Greg Vaughn’s my neighbor. I hit with Greg Vaughn a lot, too. He lives down the street, maybe half a mile from me. He’s a really cool dude.
What’s something you’ve learned from being able to hit with him?
The main thing is, because Greg’s been there and he kind of did the same I did with the football thing. He went to Sac City and played football, and then ended up choosing baseball and went to Miami. The main things I learned from him is hit what you’re going to get, and don’t expect a fastball when you know you’re not going to get that. He taught me a lot to focus on driving the ball the opposite way. He’s very helpful and he’s there when I need him to be.
Outside of athletics, what else interests you. If sports weren’t an option, what kind of career would you choose?
Well, depending on where baseball takes me, I’m definitely going to go to law school. My mom’s a lawyer, actually, and so is my aunt. So, I want to go to law school, get my law degree, and take the bar and become a lawyer—either private, or maybe a district attorney. I definitely want to pursue law and get into law.
OK, nice. Well, I’ve got a couple fun questions here to wrap this up. What’s your favorite music group or artist?
I like all types of music. Rick Ross is one, and then Toby Keith and Justin Moore.
A wide range there. What about a favorite movie?
I’d say “Field of Dreams.”
If you could be on any reality TV show, which one would you choose?
I think “The Bachelor” would be pretty cool. You get to be with all those women and then pick one, that’d be pretty cool.
What do you like to do when you’re not playing baseball?
A lot of people when they see me, they don’t see me as someone who lives in the country. But I live in the country and I have steer, and I fish and hunt.
Yeah, that is interesting. Out here in North Carolina, pretty much every player I talk to is into that, but when you think of California players, you don’t think of that too often.
Exactly. Yeah, I live on five acres and I raise my own beef. We actually have a nickname for our steer—“dinner.” We kill a steer every year and we store it in our freezer and go through it. I grew up in the country and we actually have a pond, so I’ll go out there and fish. I just grew up being outside and being active. I’m a high-strung kid. I’ll do whatever—run around, hunt, fish and go four-wheeling.