BY STEVE KRAH
Jacob Cantleberry was well into his teens before he became serious about baseball.
Now it’s his profession.
Cantleberry was born in Indianapolis and grew up in Greenwood, Ind., and was more into golf and basketball.
“I was a late bloomer,” says Cantleberry, who is now a 6-foot-1, 180-pound left-handed pitcher in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. “I was pretty athletic and thought, ‘maybe I can do this?’ I started out as an outfielder. I got into pitching when I couldn’t hit anything above 86 (mph).”
Cantleberry was a Perfect Game Preseason Underclass All-American in 2015, a two-time Daily Journal Player of the Year under the guidance of head coach Keith Hatfield at Center Grove High School, graduating in 2016.
As a senior, Cantleberry was ranked as Perfect Game’s No. 3 left-handed pitcher and No. 11 recruit as well as a PG Central Regional Preseason All-American. He became an all-Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference honoree and the Johnson County Player of the Year. He traveled two summers as a high schooler for the Indiana Bulls.
After high school, two seasons were spent at San Jacinto College in Houston, Texas, where he learned from head coach Tom Arrington and pitching coach Eric Weaver and one at the University of Missouri, where Steve Bieser was head coach and Fred Corral pitching coach.
Cantleberry was surrounded by many future pros at San Jacinto.
“(Arrington and Weaver) taught me how to compete,” says Cantleberry. “They were very good with basic stuff, like how to work hitters.”
As a San Jacinto freshman in 2017, National Junior College Athletic Association All-American Cantleberry made 16 starts and was 11-1 with a 1.73 earned run average, 89 strikeouts in 78 innings. The Gators, which have made 25 NJCAA World Series appearances, were national runners-up.
In 2018, Cantleberry made 16 starts and was 12-3 with a 3.32 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 76 innings.
At Missouri, Cantleberry became a Friday night starter and went against Southeastern Conference batsmen.
“They have studs — 1 through 9 — in every single lineup,” says Cantleberry of the SEC, which had 91 players chosen in the MLB draft in 2019.
“I had a really good time and I learned a ton,” says Cantleberry of his experience at Mizzou. “The SEC is the best amateur baseball conference in the country.
“There was a big learning curve, but (Bieser and Corral) were accommodating.”
Cantleberry says his coaches insisted that their players did the little things right.
“They were very detail-oriented,” says Cantleberry. “That’s going to help me a lot to further my career.”
Every bullpen session at Mizzou, a chart was kept with a point system to track what pitches landed and in what counts.
“It would give you that performance grade afterward,” says Cantleberry. “There was focus and intent on every single pitch I threw — even in practice.”
The southpaw made 16 appearances (12 starts) for the Tigers and was 4-5 with a 4.73 ERA. In 72 1/3 innings, he racked up 97 strikeouts and 31 walks.
After a two-inning stint Aug. 26 in which he got the win for the Pioneer League’s Ogden (Utah) Raptors, Cantleberry has made 15 mound appearances (all in relief) and is 2-1 with a 1.25 ERA between Ogden and the Arizona League Mota Dodgers. In 21 2/3 innings, he has 28 K’s and eight walks.
The regular season ends Sept. 2. Ogden has made the playoffs. At the end of that run, Cantleberry will head to Glendale, Ariz., for fall instructional league. Since has already logged plenty of innings between college and pro in 2019, he will go there to work out.
After spending sometime back in Greenwood, Cantleberry says he will decide where he will spent the off-season getting ready for 2020.
The middle child of Rick and Connie Cantleberry, Jacob has two sisters. Devin is older and Riquel is younger.
Jacob is one year away from finishing a degree in rehabilitative health science. He is focusing on baseball for now.
Jacob Cantleberry is a left-handed pitcher for the Ogden (Utah) Raptors in the Los Angeles Dodgers system. He is a graduate of Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Ind., and San Jacinto College in Houston, Texas, and pitched one season at the University of Missouri. (Ogden Raptors Photo)
Jacob Cantleberry shows the left-handed pitching form that got him selected in the 2019 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers. A former Center Grove High School, San Jacinto College and University of Missouri pitcher, he is now with the Ogden (Utah) Raptors. (Ogden Raptors Photo)