By BEN JOHNSON
Jake Fisher never really had a favorite baseball team during his adolescent years. He’d root for the Texas Rangers because they were close to home, but he was more of a follower of players instead of a die-hard fan of any particular team.
His favorite player was Pedro Martinez, a future Hall of Famer who compiled 219 career victories while recording 3,154 strikeouts. He also was a key figure in Boston ending an 86-year championship drought by helping the Red Sox win the World Series in 2004.
Fisher said if forced to choose a favorite team, he’d likely go with the Red Sox. But he didn’t consider himself an avid fanatic.
“I was more of a player fan than I was a fan of a team,” said Fisher, a former standout at Keys High School. “I would get more excited about players than teams.”
Those days are gone. His new favorite team is the Los Angeles Dodgers.
That’s because the southern California franchise drafted Fisher in the 22nd round of the recent Major League Baseball draft. Fisher was selected with the 664th pick on Saturday.
“I think I’d go out on a limb and say the Dodgers are my new favorite team,” Fisher said. “I have nothin’ but love for them.”
Ironically, Fisher will now try and follow in Martinez’s footsteps. The Dominican Republic native started his professional baseball career when the Dodgers signed him as an amateur free agent in 1998.
As for Fisher, it didn’t take him long to find out about his selection in the draft.
“I knew right when it happened,” said Fisher, a 5-foot-10 left-handed pitcher who recently concluded his senior season with the Oklahoma Sooners.
“I was sitting with my teammates and they let me know about it, especially Max White who was watching the draft tracker.”
Fisher quickly verified the information on his own mobile device.
“I looked down at my phone and five minutes later the scouts that drafted me called me,” Fisher recalled. “They told me congratulations, and I told them, ‘thanks for believing in me and I can’t wait to get to work.’”
As of Monday afternoon, Fisher said he hadn’t had any conversations with the Dodgers organization, but “they were supposed to get a hold of (Fisher) in the next few days to figure out the contract and all that.”
After agreeing to contract terms, Fisher will begin his professional career in the Dodgers’ minor league system. Los Angeles could send Fisher to any number of destinations: rookie league in Arizona or one of the Single-A clubs in Ogden (Utah), Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) or Great Lakes (Mich.).
“I don’t know if they’ll send me to Single-A, High-A or rookie league,” Fisher said. “I just don’t know. I wouldn’t be surprised if they sent me to either one.”
Someone who might be able to give Fisher some pointers about minor league baseball could be Fisher’s old high school teammate and best friend, Chance Ross, who is currently playing Single-A baseball for the Burlington Bees in the Los Angeles Angels’ organization. In fact, Ross was one of the first to congratulate Fisher on being drafted.
“He called me right away, and he was excited for me,” Fisher said. “Now in the offseason, we’re going to work hard together even though we play for different teams.”
Fisher will head off into his professional career after polishing off a successful campaign at OU. Fisher — who became the Sooners’ third starter midway through the Big 12 Conference portion of the schedule — rounded out his senior season with a 3-2 record and 2.50 earned run average. He also had 51 strikeouts compared to only 14 walks.
Slated to start the third game of the Sooners’ Super Regional with Louisiana State, Fisher and the Sooners were unable to force a third and deciding game in the best-of-three series. LSU ended OU’s season and punched a ticket to the College World Series with an 11-1 victory on Saturday.
“It was tough,” Fisher said of the loss to the Tigers. “Our goal this year was to win a ring, and we were able to win a Big 12 ring. We had a lot of momentum going but had it stopped by LSU. It was a crazy environment (in Baton Rouge).”
Fisher’s final appearance for the Sooners came in the final game — but in relief. Fisher was summoned out of the bullpen and worked 2/3 of an inning, giving up two runs (both unearned) on two hits.
“I was scheduled to start the third game; I was excited for it,” said Fisher, who made six starts and appeared in 21 games this season. “But a couple of things went wrong and things didn’t go our way and now we’re back home. Wish the best to LSU.”
Instead of going to Omaha, Neb., with his college teammates, Fisher will now look toward beginning his career in the Dodgers’ farm system.
“It’s a dream come true,” Fisher said. “It’s been a goal of mine to play professional baseball. In my college baseball career I’ve been able to be a part of some great teams, play for some great teams and play for some great coaches.
“Now it’s on to the next chapter of my life and try to make it to the major leagues.”