Local star eyes second season of professional baseball

Published 12:03 am Sunday, April 9, 2017

Jake Winston spent most of his past offseason working out with fellow Trinity Episcopal alumnus Matthew Freeman.

As the two former Saints would go through their workout routine, Freeman would often relay many supporting messages to Winston from people in the area.

That’s when the Vidalia native realized he has  overwhelming support from friends as he approaches his second year of professional baseball.

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“I really thought about that,” Winston said of the messages. “People might not always call or text you, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not supporting you. I have tremendous support from my family, my fiancé Allie (Boothe) and her family. But I also have a lot more support than I might think. I’m really thankful for all the people following me and supporting me.”

Winston has spent the past few months in Scottsdale, Ariz., at the Arizona Diamondbacks training facility, where he just completed his first spring training as a professional pitcher.

“Spring training was a memory I’ll never forget,” Winston said. “Early in the morning breakfast, cafeteria full of guys, then just baseball non-stop until mid-afternoon. I’m going to remember all of the small things — hanging out in the locker room with the guys, living in a hotel, just all of it.”

Winston hasn’t been assigned to a Diamondbacks Minor League affiliate just yet, and instead will remain the next few weeks in Scottsdale in extended spring training.

“I’m here for at least another month,” he said. “I’m going to continue working hard and keep the right attitude about everything.”

The Diamondbacks drafted the right-handed hurler in round 16 of the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft after a standout career at the University of Southern Mississippi.

The former Golden Eagle didn’t disappoint in his professional campaign. Winston appeared in 28 games for the Hillsboro Hops, striking out 31 batters in 31.1 innings en route to a stingy 2.87 earned-run average. He also recorded five saves for the Diamondbacks Class-A affiliate.

Winston parlayed his 2016 campaign into a stellar first spring training.

“The main thing for every outing was just to get outs, however you can get them,” Winston said. “Whether it be fly balls, ground ball or strike outs, just gets outs and minimize the damage and keep people off the bases.”

Winston said a focus of his this offseason was to arrive at camp in top shape, and prove to the Diamondbacks brass that he is ready for whatever challenge  is thrown his way.

“I wanted to put on some weight and let the head guys know that I put in the work in the offseason and that I was ready,” Winston said. “I just want them to see that I’m prepared and ready to go. That was my main goal.”

For the time being, Winston said he will continue to take things on a daily basis and enjoy his time as a professional baseball player.