Cubs Prospect Jesse Hodges: How Baseball Shaped Him into the Person He is Today

Jesse Hodges can be found manning third base for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans almost every night. While he has been a key player for the Pelicans this season, it's hard to believe that professional baseball almost didn't seem to be in Hodges' future at one point.

Hodges appeared to be a sure bet to be selected in the 2012 MLB draft out of his high school in Victoria, British Columbia. But no one took him. Despite the disappointment, Hodges' next step in life was to attend school at Grayson Junior College in Texas on a full scholarship for baseball, but an opportunity that would prove to be life-changing presented itself before Jesse headed off to college: he was selected to play baseball for the Canadian Junior National Team in an international tournament.

Hodges may not have been drafted by a major league team, but he came to the tournament ready to prove just how good he was. He hit a game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth in a game against Japan, and then scored the winning run for Canada in the 10th. His talents not only earned the team MVP award, but he also caught the eye of a scout from the Cubs who signed the young ballplayer as a free agent.

Although now a permanent fixture at the hot corner, Hodges had never played third until his time with the Canadian Junior National Team in 2012. “I was groomed as a shortstop as a kid by my dad and my grandfather, but when I started playing with the Junior National Team when I was 17, they projected me more of playing professional as a corner guy, like third base,” he explained.

With the chance to make his dream of playing pro baseball a reality, Hodges decided to forgo school and went to work at third base for the Cubs, steadily making his way through system since 2013, honing his skills to become the best ballplayer he could be.

The 23-year-old thrived in South Bend during the 2016 season, batting .287 and being named to the Midwest All Star team. He would receive his promotion to Myrtle Beach in late July and found himself sharing time at third base with the hot-hitting David Bote. “It started off great but after a few weeks, I started to fall off a bit. But that’s baseball,” Hodges said of his transition from Class A to High-A ball. He ended his season with the Carolina League Champion Pelicans batting just .186, playing in only 29 games.

The offseason was a time for the Canadian to reflect and make some changes to prepare for a successful 2017 season. “I changed everything from workouts to mindset, but especially my workouts,” said Hodges. “I lifted a lot, different heavy stuff. I changed my swing, made some pretty big adjustments mentally and physically to baseball. And it’s worked out well so far.”

His changes seem to be worth it; the bearded redhead is currently seeing some of the best numbers of his career. Just over two weeks into the second half of the season, Hodges has hit a career high eight home runs, owns a .435 slugging percentage on the year and is just six RBIs away from his career high of 55, which he should easily surpass.

While Hodges appears to have found his stride with the Pelicans this season, he’s constantly striving for improvement. “Yeah, I’m happy with [my season], but I’m not satisfied,” he said. “I always want to keep going and get better, but I’m trying to take it game by game, pitch by pitch, and we’ll see what happens.”

Regardless of what the future holds for Hodges, he says his experience with baseball has molded him into the person he is today. “When I was in high school, I thought I was going to get drafted and everything was going to go this way and that way,” he remembered. “I thought I was the ‘bees knees’ but after I wasn’t drafted, it totally changed who I am as a person. I have to grind for everything; you have to work so hard and nothing is going to be handed to you. You always have to keep pushing with the ups and downs.”

Life may not have gone as planned for Jesse Hodges when he was a high school senior, but then again, things often have a funny way of working out on their own. “It worked out for the best because it changed my mentality,” Hodges said of being looked over in the draft and signed by the Cubs later on. “I had to change the way I worked and I had to do a lot of adjusting. I think it totally worked out for the best.”

Comments

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  • Nice job on the piece Stephanie. I always like taking a look at the person in addition to the stats. Their stories are usually more interesting as a read.

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    In reply to Eskimo:

    Thank you. I think it's always good for the fans to learn a bit about the background of the players. I thought Hodges had an incredible story.

  • Great story Stephanie.

    Got a chance to see him play on Sunday when the Pelicans were visiting my hometown Frederick Keys. Other than the fielding error in that first inning he looked solid in the field, and hit beh ball hard. Remember thinking that he had the look of a guy who might have a MLB player in him.

    Hearing the backstories is always interesting.

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    In reply to drkazmd65:

    I was there as well! May have ran into you and didn't even know it haha He did pretty well in Frederick, which was especially good to see after getting off to a rough start for the second half. Think he's finding his groove again.

  • In reply to Stephanie Lynn:

    I was in the 'cheap seats' along the 1B side - right where I usually sit and close to the Beer concessions. Usually manage to make it to 2-3 games a year to get my live Baseball fix. First game I made it to this year though.

    Cheers!

  • Reading these stories gives me yet another reason to love following these young players. Thanks Stephanie. Great story.

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    In reply to bwitty:

    So glad you liked it!

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    Cease scratched, injury or trade?

  • In reply to Ray:

    Trade to White Sox.

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    Hi Stephanie. I totally enjoyed reading your piece on Jessie Hodges. These guys all have lives and dreams and it's so nice read a story like this. Keep it up. I'll keep reading!

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    In reply to Hal McCarty:

    Thank you for your support!

  • Was at the game tonight. He took a picture with my daughter. Love the beard. Had a big RBI tonight.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    I saw Rucker went 7 innings of 1 hit ball with 7 K. What did you think of his stuff?

  • In reply to Bamacub:

    I was very pleasantly surprised by his stuff. I didnt know anything about him. Consistently hit 91-93 with fast ball. Hit 94 once I saw in the 1st. Was still throwing 91-93 in 7th. Didn't see many change ups. Slider seemed a little flat/unless was a cutter that moves a little but was around 88. His breaking pitch I thought was solid tonight. Ump had a consistent just below kneecap zone and he was hitting it. Winston hitters never looked comfortable against him. That is how I usually evaluate a pitcher. I don't recall him being squared up much in 1st five innings. . 1st hit was a liner down rf line. His frame is not intimidating. Built like a second basemen. He had like 7 strikeouts in first 3-4 innings.
    A cool part of evening was Eloy Adonis and Bryant signed a ball and tossed it up to my daughter in the 7th inning.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Awesome. Thanks for the insight. Hard to get a good look sometimes with the quality of the MiLB videos

  • In reply to Bamacub:

    The Winston kid had good stuff too. Had control issues in the first and they actually had bullpen going in 1st inning. He has to be 6'6. After that he was good. Game flew by.

  • Great article Stephanie. It's nice to get to know more about some of these unheralded prospects. Some of these guys like Hedges you will see their name in the recaps but know very little about. You do a great job of introducing them to a lot of us that enjoy the minor leagues as well as the MLB team. Even if he's a long shot to make it to the Cubs it's still fun to get to know some of the underdog stories so you can root for them to realize their dreams

  • Carasiti did a better job closing out his all star game than Davis did. He has good velocity, but will not make it past AAA if he can't get better control

  • Excellent job Stephanie!

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