CLINTON — Jack Larsen is accustomed to being looked over.
Despite an accomplished career at the University of California-San Diego — including a blistering senior season — the Clinton LumberKings’ right fielder was left off the California Collegiate Athletic Association’s All-Conference team last April and was not among the 1,215 fresh-faced ballplayers selected in the 2017 MLB Draft in June.
“It definitely is motivation for me,” Larsen said of the lack of recognition. “I felt like coming in here (Clinton), I definitely had to prove something and also prove to myself that I can be here and that I can do this so it has been nice.”
With just three weeks remaining before the end of the Midwest League’s first half, Larsen has proved he is more than capable of playing professionally. The Newport Beach native currently ranks second on the LumberKings in batting average (.302) while holding a share of the team lead in home runs with six, which also is among the league’s leaders.
What is working at the plate?
“I started the season off hot and I’m seeing the ball well and hitting mistakes,” Larsen said. “It’s been a grind but I am just trying to scrape out my hits.”
Larsen was a four-year starter at UC San Diego, where he started the final 127 games of his career and currently ranks within the top-five in program history in all major hitting categories, including home runs, hits and RBI.
The travel from Clinton to Larsen’s hometown in southern California is approximately 1,800 miles, which can be achieved in a 28-hour car ride or a 3 1/2 hours plane trip.
But Larsen said his family hasn’t skipped a beat in support despite the distance.
“They always stay in touch with me and watch all my games or listen to them,” Larsen said. “It’s funny, I get texts every day from at least one family member… it’s always good to hear from home.”
Clinton and Newport Beach are about as different of cities as any two areas in the country can be, as an off-day in his hometown that was typically reserved for a visit to the Pacific Ocean has been traded in for the Mississippi River.
Larsen said he had never played in weather as cold as the team’s opening weeks but said he is comfortable with the region’s seasonal humidity that sweeps through the area in the summer months.
“It’s definitely been a lot different playing in the Midwest,” Larsen said. “I’m not used to a town like Clinton but being around all the guys has made for a much better transition.”
With Larsen anchoring the Clinton lineup in the cleanup spot of the order, the LumberKings have ascended to the top of their division with a a 23-19 record.
In the midst of a brutal stretch of 24 games in 21 days, Larsen said it is crucial to keep both the physical and mental aspects of the game polished.
“It’s tough but you just have to take care of your body, we’ve got a good training staff and coaches to help with that,” Larsen said. “It’s important to have a strong mentality to go through these games.”
Next month, the league will announce its rosters for the 2018 All-Star Game, which will be held June 19 in Lansing, Michigan.
This time, Larsen doesn’t want to be snubbed.
“I want to win a championship, that is our goal,” Larsen said. “I haven’t thought about individual (accolades) much but I want to make the All-Star team.”