When Jay Adams is hot, everything falls into place for Concordia Baseball. Take for example the 2022 GPAC tournament which saw Adams rake at a temperature comparable to the inside of a hot pocket fresh out of the microwave. All he did was go 16-for-30 (.533) with 12 runs, a double, four homers, 14 RBIs and two walk-off hits during the GPAC postseason run that led the Bulldogs back to the national tournament.
Adams’ performance on that stage will be remembered for some time and go down in program folklore. In a lineup full of sluggers and on-base machines, Adams just might be the guy opponents least want to see at the plate in a critical situation.
Over his tenure, Head Coach Ryan Dupic has had the luxury penciling in top-of-the-lineup stars like Alex Alstott, Casey Berg and Wade Council, but they don’t make them like Adams is built. Says Dupic, “I was speaking to a coach in our league last year about that, and he had referenced that. I think it was accurate – he really felt like Jay is the guy who makes us go. When he’s going good, our team is really good. We have a lot of good power hitters in the middle of the order, but when Jay is going that really makes us special. You saw that at the end of last season.”
Dupic and former assistant coach Bryce Berg did not have to go far when they began recruiting Adams, a product of Waverly High School. A three-sport athlete who also played receiver for the Vikings football team, Adams demonstrated a knack for meeting the ball with the bat. Dupic and Berg took notice of the superstate selection and the way he helped lead Waverly to the 2019 state tournament. While hitting .373 (with 19 extra-base hits) over 70 career high school games, Adams was nearly scratching the surface of his vast potential.
The ’22 campaign is when it really all clicked for Adams, who enjoyed one of the greatest seasons ever by a Concordia Baseball player. He surged to 18 home runs and 65 RBIs while batting .371 with a .440 on-base percentage and .664 slugging percentage. Adams also successfully handled 228 of 235 chances at second base. He’s been a sparkplug for a team that has powdered an impressive 203 home runs over the past two seasons.
Said Adams, “I’ve always had good bat-to-ball skills. I can usually hit the ball well. I decided it would be a good idea to start working on power, so I really focused on elevating the baseball. I did sacrifice a little bit more strikeouts, but I thought it was a good sacrifice to put up the numbers I did.”
Adams certainly takes pride in his many individual achievements (like school records for hits and runs scored in a single season), but he embodies what the program is about and why it’s in the midst of the greatest successes it’s ever achieved. During the recruiting process, Adams seemed to sense that there was something different about Concordia than all the other schools. The fit felt right – and it was only a 35-minute drive from home.
“I knew about Concordia,” Adams said. “I liked that it’s a small town – I’m not really a big town type of guy and I didn’t plan on moving too far from home. Other than that, it was pretty much coaching. Dupic and Bryce Berg were people I looked up to right away. They showed they were really interested in me, and I thought that was really cool. Other coaches didn’t show that. They built a real connection right away. I thought that was unique. I got to know some of the guys on my visit and I really liked them right away. There were just good vibes that made me want to come here.”
Dupic saw Adams as a good fit and a potential immediate contributor. Indeed, Adams earned a starting job as a freshman. “He was on a really good high school team with a lot of really good players,” Dupic said. “There were a number of guys we were glancing at, but Jay really stood out. He was a multi-sport athlete. He had really good bat-to-ball skills. He’s someone we got to know a little bit. Coach Bryce Berg was a big part of that. We were really happy to get him. He’s had a really good career here.”
Adams never let his relatively small frame (5-foot-8) limit what he could do. The Public Health & Fitness major produced 629 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns (24 career touchdowns) for a playoff qualifier his senior season and averaged 8.8 points per game in his final season on the hardwood. Adams may have displayed big play ability on the gridiron, but he didn’t have much of a problem deciding which sport would receive his long-term attention.
It's fair to say Adams is romantic about baseball. Said Adams, “Growing up, from a young age, me and my dad really focused on baseball a lot and worked on it a lot. I found out I had a pretty good skill for the game. We stuck with it. It took me a while to build into different sports. It was mostly baseball until about sixth or seventh grade when I started basketball and then in seventh grade, I started football. I fell in love with those sports too, but nothing connected with me like baseball did with my heart. It was something I could do every single day of my life and not complain at all. Commitment was easy for baseball.”
Hitting coach Caleb Lang will have the joy of working with Adams for a third season. During that time, Adams became one of the best all-around hitters in the entire NAIA. There are many things that stand out when it comes to the way Adams approaches each day and each rep at the plate.
Said Lang, “Jay has a knack for big time situations because he’s a big-time competitor. His barrel awareness and adjustability are in the top one percent of the top one percent at our level. He has the ability to hit velocity and I have seen him early on 92-95 mile-per-hour fastballs. Guys try to beat him with the breaking ball, and he keeps his hands back and laces balls all over the yard. The power component came last year.”
Added Lang, “He’s the ideal leadoff hitter, competes constantly and the guy you want up in every big situation. You know he will have a quality AB and give us the best chance at success. He has a little edginess that he is able to control and use to his advantage.”
Every day turns into an intense competition when you’re surrounded in the lineup by the types of hitters the Bulldogs will again trot out there this spring. Last season, Adams was one of four Concordia sluggers to mash at least 18 homers. Jaidan Quinn set a new program single season standard with 19 while Adams, Keaton Candor and Joey Grabanski followed with 18 apiece.
Is it even possible for Adams to do more than he did last year – or to top the memories of his teammates mobbing him after his walk-off winner in the GPAC tournament championship game? Says Adams, “I want to hit more home runs. I want to hit the ball harder and I want to limit the strikeouts and put the ball in play a little bit more. I’d gladly take the previous years, but those are the key points I’m working on.”
Adams will enter this season with 187 career hits, meaning the school record of 234 hits by Zak Goodrich is not safe. Of course, Adams will make his push for bigger and better within the context of team success. Adams would love to show everyone just what he can do the NAIA’s grandest stage, the World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, a magical place the Bulldogs visited in 2021. As Adams says, “We’re all doing it for each other.”