At the beginning of the 2011 season, things looked very promising for Orioles catcher/utilityman Jake Fox.
Fox had a very promising spring for manager Buck Showalter and the Orioles, belting ten home runs in Grapefruit League action and appeared to be prove that he was worthy of getting at-bats and full-time action when the regular season went underway.
He looked as if he was going to earn himself the necessary playing time to keep up his impressive hot streak-something that he did not earn from his previous stints in Oakland and the Chicago Cubs.
That was how he actually found his way in a Baltimore uniform as Oakland couldn’t afford to keep him on the bench, designating him for assignment on June 22, 2010 and trading him to the Orioles.
However, nearly a year later, the nightmare happened again for Jake Fox, as the 28-year old found himself yet again short of playing time and in the manager’s doghouse and eventually-off another big league club.
While listed as a catcher and having the ability to play multiple positions, Fox could not call one his own, and when pitcher Brian Matusz returned off the disabled list on the first of June, it was Fox’s name to easily came up-but for the wrong reason.
The Orioles designated the fifth-year man for assignment, and given his previous criticism of A’s management and his off-and-on relationship with Buck Showalter, it looked as if Jake Fox would be too proud to accept a minor league assignment should be passed waivers.
Jake Fox appeared as if he would burn yet another bridge to another organization as he did twice before, but that is where the third time indeed happened to be a charm.
Fox narrowly avoided finding his way up to Pittsburgh during his ten-day wait to either be traded or pass through waivers, but when no team called the Orioles to claim him, he found himself with a decision to make.
And Fox did, accepting the minor league assignment to the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate, Norfolk, and has since started eight games for the Tides.
So far, he has hit .207 while hitting two home runs and has driven in seven RBIs.
Fox joined Rex Snider on “The Afternoon Drive” Friday afternoon to offer his thoughts on trying to prove to his parent club in Baltimore that the longtime star at the minor league level deserves another chance at a promotion-instead of his third set of walking papers.
“I’ve got to come down; show them I can play everyday, and show them I’m able to perform,” Fox told Snider. “Hopefully that will get me where I want to go.”
And for Fox, the biggest remedy to his troubles or worries so far this season should be fixed down at Norfolk by being used day-in and day-out by manager Gary Allenson.
He knows now that he both sides can help each other out, and that it’s mutually beneficial for both Fox and the Tides.
“I think its no secret people know I can play everyday on the big league level and I just wasn’t being used that way,” Fox said.” It’s hard to come out an perform when you’re only playing one or two days a week, and in order to get where I want to go in my career, it’s a necessary step.”
And Fox didn’t lie to Snider when he said that the experience so far has been nothing short of a good one for him.
“There are a lot of fun guys here… it’s a good club house,” Fox admitted.
Fox said the hardest part about the last several weeks was not actually leaving his teammates during the Seattle series on June 1st, but it was instead the period where his future landing spot was in limbo, whether it was through a trade, waiver claim, demotion, or outright release.
“I’ll tell you this…it’s a tough process,” Fox said. “The harsh part of it is you’re sitting dormant. You’re sitting around…you’re not playing, you’re not staying in shape, and you’re just kind of sitting there.”
Fox said he just continued to go about his business in preparing to suit up to play at the big league level night after night, but that didn’t mean the doubt didn’t eat at him every day.
“It’s just very difficult from that standpoint because you have no idea where you’re going, and no idea how they’re going to use you when you get there,” Fox said. “It could be anywhere from you’re going to get traded to a west coast team, and you’re expected to play the next day game.”
And when no major league club called the Orioles, he had a decision to make when it came to what appeared as a step-back to a major league ballplayer by going down to the minors. He made his choice, but nearly fourteen days since stepping in a batter’s box had Fox’s mind swirling yet again.
“Now you’re going to Norfolk… it’s two weeks since I played my last game, so how you get back in the swing of things and be successful right away?”, Fox asked himself.
And with his lack of playing time, he felt like his rustiness at the plate in Baltimore(.188, 9-for-48. 2 HRs, 4 RBIs) would resurface wherever he went.
Fox said inactivity can be so much more worse than going up against a good pitcher for a hitter such as himself.
“It affects hitters differently according to what kind of hitter they are,” said Fox. “Power hitters say timing is everything, and that’s one thing that it does disrupt. When you have time in between starts, and times when you don’t see pitching, it does disrupt your timing.”
Fox said he could never be a career pinch-hitter or someone of that nature. It just doesn’t fit with his preparation.
“I still believe that coming off the bench in the big leagues is one of the hardest things to do in the big leagues. Guys that can do it, and do it well should be paid a heck of a lot more then they are ’cause there’s not many guys that can do it.“
But now, at least Fox will get what he wants most-playing time and at-bats-and he hopes with that going for him, he can prove to Buck Showalter and Andy MacPhail that he deserves another shot at being on the field at Camden Yards.
And he knows just what he needs to do to get it done.
“I think we all know what’s going to keep me in the big leagues is hitting the ball. I just need an opportunity to go out there and do that, that’s the hardest part,” Fox replied.
“I think that’s where it comes into play, just trying to get those consistent at bats. Once I get those consistent at bats I think you’ll see a lot more production.”
WNST thanks Jake Fox for joining “The Afternoon Drive” with Rex Snider! As you all might know, both Drew Forrester and Rex Snider fought over Jake Fox as their favorite Oriole for a short time! We wish him continued success and hope to be able to cover him in Baltimore yet again real soon! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!