For baseball prospects, spring training is a land of opportunity. It's the rare chance to work out with the big league squad and try to nail down one of those ever-elusive spots on the club.
And this year, no one is chasing a bigger dream than Daniel "Doc" Jacobs.
Jacobs, a Navy veteran, was serving in Iraq in 2006 when an improvised explosive device blew up beneath his Humvee. The Marine by his side was killed, and Jacobs suffered severe hand and foot injuries. He would have to have a total of 50 surgeries, and his left leg was ultimately amputated below the knee.
Jacobs met Tommy Lasorda at a California Disabled Veterans Business Alliance meeting last year, and he
told the former Dodgers manager that his dream had always been to play professional baseball. So Lasorda arranged for Jacobs to have a tryout this week with the club in Arizona.
And according to reports from the tryout, Jacobs' invite wasn't just a nice move by the Dodgers organization. The guy can play ball.
J.P. Hoornstra of the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported on Jacobs' performance Thursday:
"Unless you were looking closely at his left leg, Jacobs' tryout was indistinguishable from most. He fielded a pair of ground balls cleanly but long-hopped both throws. A backhand was hit to his right side, but it went under his glove and rolled onto the outfield grass. Another backhand met Jacobs' glove cleanly, but he short-hopped that throw."
Jacobs told Hoornstra that the tryout was bigger than his story.
"It's all about the experience, and letting America and these guys know that not all disabled veterans are going to be a statistic in the news," Jacobs said. "I'm here to combat the suicide rate, homicide rate, divorce rate statistics. I just want to get out there and prove to America there are awesome disabled veterans out there and we are making a stand against that."
This is actually the second time that Jacobs is making history. After recovering from his amputation, Jacobs was found to be fit for duty and he returned to an infantry unit, making him the first multiple amputee to be assigned back to active duty.
For photos of Jacobs in action this week, see here.