Jacob Reimer

Jacob Reimer likes taking hacks in his backyard batting cage.

YUCAIPA – It was mid-October and already the vaunted Yucaipa High baseball team prepared.

Players dressed in blue and gold sprinted to cover bases or field bunts, as veteran coach Ralph Grajeda presided.

Proof of the Thunderbirds’ excellence adorns the ballpark walls. Section titles in 1991, 1993 and 1994 under former coach Jeff Stout and another under Grajeda in 2018. And 23 league titles since 1980. Mighty impressive.

Eight former T-Birds became major leaguers. Now Yucaipa has another big-league hopeful in slugging infielder Jacob Reimer. Jacob recently signed with the University of Washington. He is expected by many to be an early-round pick in June’s Major League Baseball free-agent draft.

Asked how it feels to be the face of the storied Yucaipa program, Jacob said, “It’s the biggest honor in my baseball career. I’ve gone D1 for college so far and I’ve gone to a lot of these big events [showcases], but really just growing up as the hometown kid, I want to lead this team to the D1 championship.”

HIS OWN BATTING CAGE

“Welcome, we hope you like dogs,” says the small sign on the front door of the Reimer residence. The two-story home sits on a court in the Crafton Hills area of Yucaipa. Prior to 1958, when Yucaipa High opened, Jacob would have attended Redlands High.

Brandon Reimer, Jacob’s father, answers the door and then we’re met by a large Great Dane dog named Millie who jumps on us and a medium-sized Boxer, Jack, who isn’t far behind. We try to pat Millie on the head, but really aren’t keen on losing a hand.

Then Jacob’s personable mom Marietta appears and Jacob trails behind her, dressed in a Navy- blue T-Birds’ workout uniform.

We all head for the backyard where Brandon shows us the hill, which was cut into at significant cost to install a batting cage. Jacob and younger brother Noah – a sophomore varsity hopeful – spend a lot of time in the cage, taking hacks at their dad’s pitching.

“It’s good because I can hit any time I want,” Jacob said. “My dad will throw to me any time I ask, whether it’s 11 at night or 7 a.m.”

The hard work has paid off. Jacob last season hit .440 for the Thunderbirds, with seven home runs.

“The batting cage gets a lot of use,” said Brandon, a former Concordia University baseball player. “Jacob uses it almost every day.”

At that moment Jacob’s little sister Brynnley appeared, rocking a long “Belle” dress, which we’re told is one of the Disney princesses. Brynnley is the only family member not immersed in baseball.

KILLING ‘EM SOFTLY

Last summer Jacob played in the Prospect Development Program in Cary, N.C. That’s for the top 96 players in the nation and is a primary identification event for the 18-under national team.

Then he headed to San Diego for the prestigious Area Code Games where he was one of the top hitters and crushed a home run over the center field fence.

Jacob is known for those monster shots and says they feel good.

“I keep my hands through the ball and I see the ball go and it’s just a cool feeling knowing that you got into one. I love watching the ball go off the bat like that.”

Asked what he thinks of his third base/shortstop slugger, Grajeda said, “He’s a very mature hitter with pole-to-pole power and he doesn’t strike out a lot. In my opinion he has a college approach and is a college-level hitter right now. He’s also a great kid.”

That niceness is just a natural part of Jacob’s personality, said his mom Marietta, a former Aquinas High volleyball and basketball player.

She told of a day in first grade when a teacher from a special education class asked for a favor. She wondered if anybody in Jacob’s class would join the special education kids in a kickball game. Nobody volunteered, except Jacob.

“The special ed teacher had tears in her eyes when she told me,” Marietta said. “He was right there willing to join in. He always wants what’s best for everybody.”

But Brandon says observers shouldn’t be fooled by his son’s innate goodness and pleasant demeanor.

“He’s a nice person, but is extremely competitive on the field,” Brandon said. “He’s not Ty Cobb, trying to hurt people, but he does everything in his power to win.”

John Murphy may be reached at jmurphy@redlandscommunitynews.com.

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