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updated: 7/24/2014 6:26 AM

Hampshire star's major-league dream comes true with Padres

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  • Padres first baseman and Hampshire grad Jake Goebbert makes a line-drive out in the second inning Tuesday at Wrigley Field. Goebbert was called up when San Diego's regular first baseman, Yonder Alonso, went on the disabled list in mid-June.

      Padres first baseman and Hampshire grad Jake Goebbert makes a line-drive out in the second inning Tuesday at Wrigley Field. Goebbert was called up when San Diego's regular first baseman, Yonder Alonso, went on the disabled list in mid-June.
    Associated Press

 
 

There's talking about living the dream, and then there's actually doing it.

Jake Goebbert is doing it.

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After over 2,000 at-bats in the minor leagues, Goebbert finally got his opportunity to wear a major-league baseball uniform a little over a month ago and he's been making the most of it ever since being called up by the San Diego Padres on June 19.

"For every child who has a dream I can say chase it and believe in yourself," said Goebbert on Tuesday afternoon in the Padres' clubhouse while preparing to play the Cubs at Wrigley Field. "Having the ability and the opportunity to chase my dream is something I'm grateful to God for."

Goebbert's ability was never in question. A former all-area standout in football, basketball and baseball at Hampshire, he went to Northwestern on a baseball scholarship and was drafted in the 13th round (401st overall) by the Houston Astros in 2009. Since then he's been traded twice and played for eight different minor-league teams before being called up by the Padres when regular first baseman Yonder Alonso went on the disabled list.

Heading into Wednesday night's game against the Cubs, Goebbert was hitting .256 with a home run and 3 RBI in 43 at-bats. He got a hit in his first major-league at-bat on June 20 and belted his first home run July 9 at Colorado.

That first at-bat, which came at San Diego's Petco Park against the Dodgers, is something Goebbert will long remember.

"I was facing Dan Heron, an established major-league pitcher, and I literally couldn't feel my legs," said Goebbert, whose parents, brother and wife were all in the stands for the game. "I was focused and I knew what I needed to do but my mind was pulling me in every direction."

On the third pitch, Odrisamer Despaigne stole third base, which put Goebbert more at ease.

"That's when I got my legs under me," said Goebbert, a left-handed hitting first baseman/outfielder who has started 10 games, nine of them at first base, and is 4-for-9 as a pinch-hitter.

And now, playing major-league baseball has become more routine to a young man who grew up with a routine on the family farm just outside Hampshire, the famed Goebbert Pumpkin Farm.

"The great thing I had going for me was that growing up on a farm, a routine was established for me early on in life," said Goebbert, who will turn 27 on Sept. 24. "That's something that no doubt I want to give my kids. It's something a lot of people can't appreciate -- being able to create a routine and letting yourself live in that routine."

After toiling in the minors with Houston and Oakland, the trade to San Diego was just what the doctor ordered for Goebbert, who was playing for Class AAA El Paso when he was called up. But the road to the majors has not come without some ups and downs.

"I think the greatest challenge in baseball is being able to understand it's a game of failure," he said. "If you're successful 30 percent of the time your whole career you're going to the Hall of Fame and that's a number that's hard to grasp.

"The second biggest challenge is understanding it takes time. I try to take the little victories out of every day and my goal is to never leave the clubhouse with any sort of bad emotion, whether I've had a good day or a bad day at the plate. I don't leave the clubhouse until I'm ready to let that day go."

Padres manager Bud Black likes what he's seen from Goebbert so far.

"Jake's done a nice job," Black said. "He's still getting his feet on the ground as a major-league player, but he conducts a good at-bat and those were the reports we got on him when we got him from Oakland. He's learning every day and he's absorbing information. He's got a real good head on his shoulders and he takes what he learns every day and applies it to the next day to get better. We're excited for what he can bring -- a left-handed bat who sprays the ball around the diamond, and he plays multiple positions."

Making it to the majors was an act of perseverance on Goebbert's part.

"Certain people in my inner circle, my father (Lloyd) especially, believed it more than I did at times," Jake said. "In any athlete's life there's always times of question and doubt, but perseverance is probably one of my best attributes. It's just a dream come true, especially being here (at Wrigley)."

While Goebbert acknowledges there may be more minor-league days in his future, he also appreciates the struggles minor leaguers have to live through, especially financially.

"The minor-league experience financially is very, very difficult," he said. "If it wasn't for my parents and grandparents I would not have been able to play as long as I have. I have to give a lot of credit to my wife, too. I was the one playing and she was the one staying at home because we needed a source of income."

Goebbert, who grew up a Cubs fan, has not lost site of where he's from, even as his life has changed dramatically in the past six years. Married to the former Heather Price, also a Hampshire grad, he still comes home in the off-season, lives in Pingree Grove, and works on the family farm. "I'll always come home," he says. "I love home, and I have to come home to the pumpkin farm.

"Being from Hampshire is one of my biggest sources of pride," said Goebbert, who had over 200 family members and friends in attendance at Tuesday's game. "The support the town has given me is second to none. I hope it means as much to the town as it means to me to be from the town. It's something I wasn't to represent in the best way I can."

And he is doing exactly that.

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