It was just last spring when former Seton Hall outfielder Derek Jenkins led the nation with 52 stolen bases on his way to being named to the All-Big East First Team. Just a few weeks after a senior season in which he hit .299 and drove in 35 runs to go along with the massive stolen base total, Jenkins was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 26th round on the MLB Draft. All of a sudden, a dream had become a reality.
“Honestly, it was a dream come true for me. I always wanted to be a professional athlete,” Jenkins said of his feelings when he was selected by the Angels.
Jenkins was placed in the Arizona League with the Angels rookie ball team after his selection in the draft. In 33 games last season, Jenkins hit .265 and drove in 14 runs in 113 plate appearances while tallying 14 stolen bases.
“It’s been awesome. Right from day one, they kind of took me in and showed me how everything works,” Jenkins said about how his time with the Angels organization has gone so far. “They did a good job at explaining to me the process and what you need to go through on and off the field to move up in the system.”
Jenkins was a star on the diamond during his senior season in South Orange, providing professional-esque performances on more than one occasion. In a game against Saint Peter’s last March, Jenkins went 3-for-4 with six stolen bases. Later that season, he had three hits and five stolen bases in a game against Monmouth.
“His speed jumps out. He could steal a base anytime he wanted to,” junior outfielder Ryan Ramiz of his former teammate. Ramiz also noted how Jenkins’ speed wasn’t just a factor on the base paths, as it helped him defensively out in center field, too.
Jenkins stated that not only is he learning on the field through playing time, but that his experience around veteran players is helping him get better.
“Seeing some of the MLB guys when they come down to the afiliates, just talking with some of them, you learn a lot about not only minor league baseball but baseball in general,” Jenkins said. “My baseball IQ has increased and it’s just been an unbelievable opportunity. I’ll only get to talk to more of those guys and learn even more from them.”
Senior outfielder Jackson Martin played with Jenkins each of the last three seasons. He had some high praises for the former Pirate centerfielder.
“He was the fastest kid I’ve ever seen,” Martin said. “Seeing the way he competed, defensively, at the plate, in the weight room, all around you could definitely see he had what it takes to be a pro player.”
Jenkins valued his time at Seton Hall greatly. As he continues his journey toward the Major Leagues, he carries one core value from his time as a Pirate with him every day.
“The first thing off the bat that you think of is the mental toughness aspect,” Jenkins said. “The program at Seton Hall, we take pride in mental toughness. Whether it was with the running or with the tough days of practice or the team building stuff we all did.”
Jenkins has used this mindset to get him through the obstacles he’s faced in the Angels organization.
“I would just try and compare times in pro ball to times at Seton Hall and tell myself ‘I got through that once before, it’s nothing different now,’” Jenkins said. “Keep your head up and work through the things you’ve done for the past four years.”
He may be far from South Orange now, but Jenkins’ time at Seton Hall is fueling him on his path to the big club.
Matt Ambrose can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @mambrose97.