When the Chicago Cubs came calling, it proved too much for former Michigan catcher Jake Fox to turn down. Fox decided to forego his senior year as a Wolverine and signed a contract with the Cubs on June 28.
“It was a relief because it was a long process and kind of strenuous,” Fox said. “We finally got it settled and it took a lot of weight off my shoulders. I finally get a chance to make a dream come true.”
In his junior season with Michigan, Fox hit .357 and led the team in home runs (15), RBIs (67) and slugging percentage (.696). He received the Ray Fisher Award as team MVP and became the first Michigan player to earn Baseball America All-American honors since Jim Abbott in 1987.
The Cubs drafted Fox as the 73rd overall pick in the third round of the 2003 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on June 3. The two sides did not come to terms on a contract until a little more than a week ago.
Fox was recently assigned to Mesa, Ariz. with the Cubs’ Rookie-League team. He has received a physical and is undergoing workouts with the team.
“The last couple of days have been a waiting game for me,” Fox said. “You wait at the airport and wait for your ride, and then you come here and you wait in line to meet the coaches and get your equipment. It’s a lot of paperwork and a lot of waiting.”
Fox’s future still remains somewhat hazy. He expects to be reassigned within the next few weeks to either Chicago’s short-season Class A team in Boise, Idaho, or possibly the low-level Class A team in Lansing.
Not only would a move to Lansing be a step up for the fresh new rookie, it would also put him back in the state where his early success paved the way to a professional career.
“(Michigan coach and former minor leaguer Rich Maloney) is pretty excited for me and has warned me of what I’ll be going through here,” Fox said. “He said the first day I get to Lansing to make sure and give him a call and he’ll be there with his family.”
Fox’s climb to success is no sure thing, though. The Cubs selected catcher Tony Ritchie from Florida State in the fourth round, as well as catching prospects Matthew LaPorta of Charlotte High School and Landon Powell of the University of South Carolina in the 10th and 25th rounds, respectively.
The Cubs are thin at catcher at the major league level, so this quartet may have a better opportunity in the big leagues than a normal prospect.
“It’s not what they do that’s going to get me to where I want to go,” Fox said. “I have to make sure I show up every day and do the things that I do best.”
Ritchie has already signed a contract and is playing A Ball.
Despite the long road ahead, Fox still feels he has what it takes to be a major leaguer someday.
“I’ve talked to some big leaguers that have been there and one attribute they say that got them to where they went is perseverance – not necessarily the physical ability or what you did,” Fox said. “It’s showing up every day and keeping the right attitude. I think that’s something I can control.”