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When arriving at Veterans Field on any given summer day, a person can be almost overwhelmed by the multitude of colors washing over the entire ballpark. A blue bunting lines the outfield fence, a deep forest green coats the home and away dugouts, and a vibrant red A sits at the base of the baseball diamond.
Amongst that myriad of colors sticks out a golden brown– the color of dark hair dyed blonde. Once seen, it is hard to pull your eyes away from Jake Palomaki’s blonde mohawk hairstyle, a living testament to a goal accomplished, and a promise fulfilled.
“I told one of our pitchers [at Boston College] that if we went to a Super Regional, I’d cut my hair into a mohawk and then frost my tips,” laughed Palomaki, citing BC’s Michael King as the witness to the pledge.
At five-foot-ten and 175 pounds Jake Palomaki does not have the body of an average college baseball player. Instead, the tough, gritty infielder, thrives by relying on an unusually strong will and an unrelenting determination to play the game as best he can.
“I was always undersized, under matched, so I figured I needed to play the game hard. Harder than anybody else” said Palomaki.
The Kennesaw, Georgia native began playing baseball at the young age of eight years old, after moving down south with his family. Picking up the sport in his time away from playing hockey, Palomaki has excelled on the diamond as one of the most versatile players on teams throughout his baseball career.
As a captain at Mount Paran Christian in his junior and senior year of high school, Palomaki played a number of positions, including pitcher before cutting down to three of four infield positions at Boston College. Palomaki has continued that versatility in Chatham, appearing in 21 total games, splitting time between second and third. The BC Eagle also hits from both sides of the plate, a trend he began in his early days of baseball in his back yard.
Palomaki sits atop John Schiffner’s lineup, interchanging with DJ Artis as the team’s leadoff hitter. Thus far for the Anglers, Palomaki has gone 17-for-74, cranking one home run, en route to compiling a .230 batting average. At Boston College, the narrative is largely the same for the infielder, as Palomaki has been a top of the order hitter for Head Coach Mike Gambino the past two seasons.
“He’s a guy that kind of makes us go,” described Gambino. “I’ve got a lineup of tough, hard-nosed competitive players. And Mak sits at the top of that order. In a lineup full of guys like that, he gets it going for us.”
Though Palomaki is fifth in batting average amongst Anglers who have appeared in at least 15 games, he has been an integral part of the Chatham offense, leading the team – and the East Division – with 14 walks. Free passes have become a regular occurrence for Palomaki, who set the single-season record for walks as a freshman at BC with 46.
The sophomore infielder credits his patience at the plate for his high number of walks. A selective hitter, Palomaki waits for the perfect pitch to drive before unleashing his lethal bat. That selectivity, combined with a smaller than average strike zone, make Palomaki a near-impossible out.
Though he hails from 30 miles north of Atlanta, Palomaki likes to model his game after a member of the hometown Boston Red Sox.
“I try to keep it simple, like Dustin Pedroia,” revealed Palomaki. “Obviously I don’t have the power like he does, but I try to play the game hard, [and] fast.”
Much like his fellow second baseman, Palomaki is driven by equal parts talent and sheer effort in his quest to be the best baseball player he can. That heart becomes incarnated through his play on the field.
In an 8-2 blowout loss to Cotuit on June 29, Palomaki stepped up to the plate in the seventh inning with no one on and two outs – his team trailing by six runs. On the second pitch of the at-bat, Palomaki hit a routine fly ball to the right fielder. However, once he made contact, Palomaki raced out of the batter’s box, sprinting two-thirds of the way to second base before Cal Stevenson made the easy catch.
“I just try to show that I’m going to hustle everything out no matter what happens,” said Palomaki, a razor sharp focus in his eyes. “I’m here to compete, and work hard, and hustle, and that’s what I’m going to do no matter where the ball is hit.”
The mentality of always working your hardest is not a new-found way of life for Palomaki. In his first two years at Boston College, Gambino raved about the infielder’s work ethic, referencing Palomaki’s efforts in the weight room, his drive in the classroom, and his hunger for extra groundballs and batting practice long after his fellow teammates have returned to their dorms.
His long baseball filled days have given the Georgia native a wealth of knowledge that he utilizes in key situations for his teams. In a tied contest against Brewster on June 17, Palomaki led off the bottom of the eighth with a bunt single to put the go-ahead run on base with the heart of the order coming to bat. However, A’s manager John Schiffner had not called for a bunt on the play, as Palomaki took advantage of what he saw in front of him.
“It’s a tremendous strength to have, tremendous advantage to have," said Schiffner of his second baseman’s ability to both read the game as it unfolds and use his speed to get on base. “As they say in any sport, speed kills.”
Palomaki’s efforts have not gone unnoticed amongst his teammates in Chatham and up in Boston. A clubhouse leader for both squads, Palomaki has earned the respect of his teammates thanks in large part to his ability to lead by example. As a sophomore, he has undergone the task of guiding the newest member’s of Gambino’s team in their adjustment to baseball and school at a rigorous place like Boston College.
As the Anglers gear up for Tuesday’s contest with the Bourne Braves, Chatham will look to number 36 to spearhead its struggling offense – a task Palomaki has been up to this season, reaching base in all but three games on Cape Cod.
“He’s just constantly, constantly doing his best to help the team win,” said Gambino. “The guys know that he’s the most concerned with the team.”