Air Force senior Griffin Jax won't be pitching for Twins in spring training

February 12, 2017 Updated: February 13, 2017 at 11:59 am
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Minnesota Twins pitchers and catchers report to spring training Monday, but their 30th-ranked prospect will simply report for class at the Air Force Academy.

"The logistics of it didn't work out," said right-handed pitcher Griffin Jax, a senior at Air Force who signed with the Twins for $645,600 after they took him in the third round of the MLB draft.

"It would be kind of hard for me to show up, do things for a couple days, then leave."

There were thoughts of Jax commuting to Florida on weekends and over spring break, but the sudden starts and stops would interfere with the team's - and his - rhythm and it was decided he would be best served following a prescribed throwing and workout routine on his own at the academy.

By signing after the draft Jax gave up his final year of eligibility with the Falcons. He has been allowed to work out with the team and participate in practice on a limited basis, making him "basically like a manager on the team" according to classmate and preseason All-American outfielder Tyler Jones. But otherwise Jax is like any other cadet who does not participate in intercollegiate sports.

Well, sort of.

"After (the draft) when school started I got a bunch of friend requests on Facebook and Instagram stuff from kids I've never even met here," Jax said. "That was kind of funny. The teachers know who I am when I walk in the door and they ask me a lot of questions because they don't know how it works."

Jax's plan is to graduate from Air Force on May 24 and fly to Twins' extended spring break headquarters in Fort Myers, Fla., the next day. He'll take a physical, go through some workouts and then figure out what comes next.

That next destination could be an assignment with a minor league team or it could be at Eglin Air Force Base eight hours away in Pensacola, Fla., where he has been given the job of acquisitions officer.

At this point, neither Jax nor anybody else knows what will happen. In May 2016 the Secretary of Defense issued a new policy that would allow service academy graduates to immediately satisfy their commissioned service obligation in the Ready Reserve in order to "participate in professional activities/sports."

That requires an application process and a case-by-case review. And the entire policy could quickly change with new leadership in the department under President Donald Trump.

"As of right now I'm not really sure what the Air Force is going to have me do," Jax said. "It's out of my hands."

The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Jax, 22, pitched 82/3 innings for the Elizabethton Twins in rookie ball last summer over his leave, posting a 4.15 ERA.

MLB.com lists him as the No. 30 prospect in the Twins' organization, noting a 95 mph fastball among four "usable pitches."

"If Jax can refine one or both of (his slider or curve), he has the chance to be a solid starting pitcher," a scouting report on MLB.com said.

Air Force baseball coach Mike Kazlausky - a 20-year officer in the Air Force who retired with the rank of major - is in favor of Jax being given the opportunity to reach that potential as a professional pitcher

"I understand the other side of it, too," Kazlausky said. "You come here to serve and fight for your country. But if they're going to be in the reserves and give more time back they're still part of the military."

Jax's contract with the Twins assures the club holds control of his rights for seven years, so he knows he'll be joining them eventually. He just doesn't know when that will be.

"They understood the ambiguity of my situation and there might be a chance where I might not be able to play after a few years," Jax said. "Every team knew that it would definitely be at least a year because I would need to graduate, but the Twins were willing to take that chance and they understood and they want me no matter what, which made me feel good.

"But they definitely understand it would could be two years. They're just really hoping it's not."

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