Jacob Gatewood: Pressure is a Privilege

Jacob Gatewood of Clovis, Calif. knows all about pressure. He’s been dealing it with his entire life.

At only 10 years old he led his Little League baseball team to a Cal Ripken World Series Championship so it comes as no surprise that he has been able to handle the enormous amount of pressure he’s faced just in the past couple of months with the poise and maturity of a MLB veteran.

“My dad has always said, ‘Pressure is a privilege,’ so pressure really is something that I look forward to,” Jacob said nonchalantly. “I enjoy being that guy everyone looks at to make something happen.”

Standing an imposing 6-foot-5, Gatewood is the definition of a guy who has ice running through his veins. There is not a single pressure situation that he will shy away from, evident last month when he was selected as one of only two incoming high school seniors to compete during the MLB Home Run Derby in New York.

During a commercial break Gatewood got a chance to take his hacks alongside some of the biggest names in baseball, a moment most kids can only dream about.

“When I stepped into the batters box I just wanted to make sure I was controlling my breathing and didn’t tense up too much,” he explained when asked what was going through his head as he was watched by over 50,000 people at the New York Mets’ Citi Field.

Though not televised for everyone at home to see, the performance Gatewood put on display that night drew some of the loudest cheers from all of those in attendance. During his first time up, given 10 outs just like all of the major leaguers competing that night, Jacob totaled nine home runs, including several blasts into the upper deck. Albeit with an aluminum bat, that total was a better round than every Major Leaguer hitting that night except Yoenis Cespedes, who crushed 17 balls out of the park during his first round.

What followed soon after his incredible display of power simply was what every young kid’s dreams are made of. After recording his final out, Gatewood was mobbed by players from the American League all-star team that included the likes of David Ortiz, Mike Trout, Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera.

“I kind of just went with the flow and soaked it all in,” Gatewood recalled when asked about his once in a lifetime experience. “I really wanted to make sure I enjoyed the time I had out there.”

For a 17-year-old incoming high school senior, the stage doesn’t get much bigger than the one he experienced during his time in New York; however, the lights might soon get a little brighter for him as just last month Sports Illustrated tabbed him as their early prediction to be the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s MLB draft.

When asked how he deals with such lofty expectations Gatewood says he uses advice given to him by 16-year MLB veteran Torii Hunter.

“He just told me to keep my mind inside those white lines, just to focus on baseball and let all of that other stuff take care of itself. The draft is still a long ways away so a lot can happen between now and then.”

When Gatewood arrives at the Area Code games next week he’ll already be a seasoned veteran to the event as he was one of only a handful of guys who got the opportunity to participate in last year’s games as a rising junior. His 420-foot home run during last year’s Games provided one of the top highlights of the tournament:

Gatewood has competed in a number of events already this summer, but says nothing compares to the competition and experience that the Area Code Games brings.

“My experience last year was probably the most fun I have had at a tournament in a while,” he stated. “The competition there is just unreal. Every game you’re facing a guy throwing 90+ mph so it definitely prepares you for what the next level will be like.”

In addition to everything he has already encountered, Gatewood will look to use this year’s games as yet another opportunity to hone his skills and showcase his talents for all of the scouts that will be in attendance.

For him it will simply be just another day in his already pressure filled life, but like father is quick to point out, “Pressure is a privilege.”

Updated: July 29, 2013