Huffman lets his actions do the talking

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Aggressive discipline in the batter’s box and all-out effort everywhere on the diamond.

That’s what Niles High School baseball coach Mike Vota likes to see from his players.

One Viking that displays those qualities for Vota is junior Jakob Huffman.

“He competes,” Vota said of the first baseman and pitcher May 18 after a 5-1 home loss to Portage Northern. “He says a lot by his actions and the way he plays this game.

“Take that last inning when we were down 5-1 and there’s a little pop-up over first base, he’s running full speed and lays out for a ball that was out of his reach and just tips off his glove because of his effort. That’s what I need from nine guys.”

Jakob has taken to heart the advice of “go hard every play.”

Vota calls that leadership.

“You follow people by the way they act and the way they behave under tough situations. Jake is just one of those guys. No matter what if I send him to the mound, I know we’re going to be in a game because he’s never going to crack. That’s always impressed me about him.”

The key to offensive success this spring for Jacob is simple.

“I’ve been jumping on first pitches,” Huffman said. “Coach tries to push for that. Get on it early. You see better pitches early (in the count). We look for a fastball and jump on it.”

Vota said pitchers are every level will be successful when they are ahead in the count. The only way for hitter to stay ahead of a pitcher who is throwing strikes is to swing early.

“That’s my hitting philosophy and always has been,” Vota said. “We’re an aggressive disciplined team in the (strike) zone. We attack height. If you see a good height, you should be cutting it loose. I hear too many times, ‘Coach that was a little bit off the outside half’ or whatever. My question is always, ‘was it a good height?’”

Jakob bats and throws left-handed. Twin brother Drew — younger by eight minutes who has played in the center field but started Wednesday at shortstop for the Vikings — does those things right-handed.

Why the difference?

“I just got lucky,” Jakob said of a preference that came early in life.

The Huffman brothers, who are also travel ball teammates with the Niles Shockers, might be described as diamond rats. Baseball is their sport. When they leave the high school, they go take cuts in their home batting cage.

Looking at the keys to play heading down the stretch of the 2016, Jakob said all the Vikings need to be aggressive at the dish and make the plays in the field.

“We need to play defense,” Jakob said. “We’ve struggled at that lately. We need to slow ourselves down when we’re fielding the ball.”