Jacquez's Small Frame Generates Electric Stuff
Although he lived in El Paso, Texas, on the American side of the border, Ricky Jacquez spent most of his youth in Mexico. That's where he played baseball.
Believing the youth talent level to be greater on the southern side of the border, Jacquez, who holds dual American-Mexican citizenship, played on Mexican Little League teams as a youngster.
"That's where I developed my skills," Jacquez said.
Once he reached high school, Jacquez decided to start playing in America, where the talent for his age group surpassed that of Mexico. He knew that the chance to be seen by college recruiters and professional scouts was far greater if he played in the U.S.
While playing for Franklin High in El Paso, Texas, as well as USA Baseball, Jacquez, a 5-foot-9 righthander, has quickly proven that he can play with the top players in the country.
Jacquez was a contributor on last year's 16U National Team that ended up winning the 2009 IBAF "AA" World Youth Baseball Championship over Cuba in Taiwan. Jacquez showed his worth on that world stage, going 2-0, 2.53 in 11 innings. He also struck out 20 batters while allowing just eight hits.
To top off his stellar showing at the event, Jacquez made an impact with the bat, hitting .310 with three triples in 29 at-bats.
With his performance, Jacquez made a strong impression on Ernie Padron, who served as the team's pitching coach.
"What impressed me is with his frame, how his arm pumps out that velocity," Padron said. "He was 91-93 mph with us and if you look at him, that's remarkable."
It was an eye-opening experience for Jacquez, who admitted to being intimidated when he first played in the United States at the 16U Championship-West, which is used to select players for the national team.
"Once I got there and I saw how good the hitters were, I had my doubts about whether I'd make it or not," Jacquez said. "When I got my name called and to go on to win the gold medal, that was really special to me."
It is clear now that Jacquez has the talent to be mentioned alongside some of the best high school players in the country.
"When he's on, he's tough to beat," Padron said. "There aren't a lot of high school teams that will touch him, to be honest."
Recently at the Tournament of Stars, Jacquez made two appearances, throwing two perfect innings that included three strikeouts. Jacquez flashed a fastball in the 92-93 mph range and a 78 mph curveball that Padron described as having "a bite to it that devastates hitters."
Jacquez didn't make the final cut for the 18U squad, but was on the trials roster where he continued to show his electric stuff.
"He's not the biggest kid in the world," one scout said. "There's always that bias or aversion to small righthanders. You don't see a lot of them. As far as stuff goes, he's got top three, four, five rounds stuff. He was 90-94 (mph) the first night and has that 12-to-6 curve, a real snapper."
The important thing for Jacquez is to prove he can keep his stuff through the spring.
"You don't like to go out of your way to watch guys his size, but if you do, he's the one to follow," the scout said. "The pressure is on him to show that plus stuff every time out. We'll see what he does in the spring. If he's 93-94 (mph) every outing, someone is going to take him, but he's not going to have much leeway as a guy his size."
Jacquez was on the international map after last year's performance, but his stint at the Tournament of Stars has helped him as a player and earned him a little extra notice by many in the industry.
"It's great experience," Jacquez said of the opportunity to play in the Tournament of Stars. "It makes me that much better, pitching to the best hitters in the country
". . . A lot of times, I try to overpower guys, but I do try to hit my spots. In high school, I don't have to use my changeup very much, but here the hitters are so good I have to hit my spots, control my curveball a little more and keep the hitters off-balance."
On the mound, Jacquez has a fiery demeanor that enables him to focus on the task at hand.
"You can describe Jacquez in one word," Padron said. "And that word is competitor. When he's on the mound, it's just him and the hitter. He doesn't think about anything else.
"I guess he feels that since he's not a big guy, he's got to come in with his demeanor and attitude to be able to be successful. He plays it to a T. He's not a real talkative guy, he's all-business."
Jacquez's first experiences playing baseball came on the back lots of fields where his father, Javier, was playing on men's league teams. Jacquez and other players' sons would play in pick-up games, which sparked his earliest love for the game of baseball. From there, Jacquez and his father, who is Ricky's baseball idol, spent countless hours on the baseball field honing his skill.
"I've always wanted to be like my dad," Jazquez said. "I've always wanted to be as good as him, if not better. Ever since I was little, he has been teaching me how to play. He's a lot of the reason for the talent I have right now."
Jacquez's father instilled a sense of hard work in him, which he attributes much of his success to.
"I don't want anyone outworking me. I just do my best so I can become better than that person. That's my motivation. . . I think about my future in the long run. Every once in a while I'd like to take a break, but my goal is to get to the major leagues."
According to Padron, Jacquez's work ethic is one of his strongest attributes.
"We make a choice to conduct ourselves with a work ethic and with character," Padron said. "He definitely possesses the things that are going to make him successful in whatever he does in life. Not so much baseball, but anything . . . I do think he will have a long career in professional baseball due to that."
For Jacquez, working toward his goal is a year-long endeavor. With the combination of playing with his high school team, Team USA and in various tournaments throughout the year, Jacquez's time for non-baseball activities wears thin.
"I may get a week or two off the whole summer," he said. "I'm always out playing in tournaments or practicing so I can get better. I barely have any time for myself."
Javier, who spoke through an interpreter, said that he couldn't be prouder of his son because he knows the hard work Ricky puts in will pay off either in the form of a college scholarship or a professional contract.
"He will make it because he's dedicated his life to baseball."