By Gail Wood
Being so young, Skyler Jump, just a month after finishing his freshman year at Hoquiam High School, wasn’t expecting much. But by pitching three innings at a Washington State Cougars baseball camp, he was hoping to at least get on the Cougar coaches’ radar.
Jump got the surprise of his life after he pitched when WSU coach Donnie Marbut asked to talk to him.
“They were sitting behind home plate and they called me up there,” Jump said. “First thing he said to me was ‘Here’s the deal Skyler. We want you.’”
And Marbut handed Jump a scorecard, an evaluation of the three innings he had just pitched.
“He went through it with me,” Jump said. “And he said they wanted to offer me a full ride. Pretty awesome.”
And pretty unusual. Jump, who pitched and played first base last spring for Hoquiam’s varsity baseball team as a freshman, is the first student from Hoquiam High School to be offered a Division I baseball scholarship in 30 years. The Washington Huskies offered Shannon Hatfield, a Hoquiam grad, a baseball scholarship in 1984.
Jump, without hesitation, accepted Marbut’s verbal offer. Even though Jump also plays first base, the offer from WSU was as a pitcher.
“I’ve always thought of myself as a pitcher mostly,” Jump said. “I like playing first base, but I’m a pitcher.”
Jump can’t sign a written scholarship agreement until his senior year.
All through Jump’s journey, from when as a 1-year-old he first picked up a plastic baseball bat to last spring when Hoquiam made it the playoffs in baseball, there’s been his father, Steve Jump. Steve has coached Skyler from Little League to high school, serving as Hoquiam’s head varsity baseball coach for 15 years.
“I am proud of what he’s accomplished,” Steve said. “I took him to that WSU camp in Centralia because he’s got big dreams and I wanted to see what they thought. And if they didn’t think he could pitch at that level, then he’d go back to the grindstone and keep working at it.”
Or, Steve said, Skyler would have adjusted his dreams and goals.
But Skyler showed he could get the batters out. They liked his aggressive approach to the batters. And they liked the movement on his fastball, which was clocked in the mid-80s.
Even though Jump has realized a lifelong dream, he’s not content or satisfied. He’s not ready to coast.
“I definitely have to keep working,” Jump said, then listed a number of things he feels he needs to work on. “I have to work on a change-up. My mindset is pretty much work harder. Get after it. I’m not going to sit back. I’m not there yet.”
It’s that blue-collar work ethic that’s been Jump’s key to success. At 6-foot, 200-pounds, he’s got the size. But he’s combined physical skills with hard work.
“He’s got three more years to work hard and to prove himself,” Steve said.
While he’s been a head high school baseball coach at Hoquiam since 1999, Steve said his position as a coach had no impact on his son getting a baseball scholarship offer.
“They weren’t looking for the head coach at Hoquiam when Skyler went out there,” Steve said. “They were looking for a kid to pitch for them. I couldn’t help them any. If people have the impression that I somehow got him involved with WSU, trust me it wasn’t me at all. I like Donnie. He likes me and I like all the coaches there. But they like Skyler. I’m not going to help them at all. All we’re going to do is go to games and be supportive parents.”
Over the years of coaching his son, Steve has learned how to separate from being a dad and being his son’s coach.
“I had to step away from the dad role,” Steve said. “The nice thing is I’ve coached Skyler for so long we have that kind of business relationship. Some dads can’t do it. I wouldn’t say it was really easy early on. But we’ve developed that this is baseball and it’s more of a business sort of thing. Overall, I think he treats me like a coach when I am coaching. But I’m sure it’s not as easy on him either.”
Steve said WSU and his son are a perfect fit. Skyler comes from a small town and likes fishing. Steve also gives the coaching staff a double thumbs up. Marbut is from Aberdeen and Gregg Swenson grew up in Raymond and pitched at Olympia High School after his family moved there.
Skyler’s roots in small towns are deep. Both his parents, Steve and his wife Bonnie, graduated from Hoquiam and now teach there.
“We’re not big town people,” Steve said. “It’s a good fit.”