Entering his 17th season of professional baseball (13 with the New Jersey Jackals), pitcher Isaac Pavlik has definitely not lost his edge and dominance on the mound.
This season, Pavlik is off to another strong start for New Jersey, sporting a 6-1 record (2nd in the Can-Am League), a 3.86 E.R.A. and 53 strikeouts. His career record in a Jackals uniform is 96-52, where he struck out 973 during that span. Between 2012-13, Pavlik enjoyed his best seasons, going 25-5 and fanning 226.
Pitching is just one of Pavlik’s responsibilities this season. You can add the title of pitching coach to his résumé.
After a sluggish start to the 2017 season, New Jersey are right back in the thick of the race at 30-16 and trailing the Rockland Boulders by 3 games for first place. This past Monday, Pavlik registered his 6th win against Rockland.
“Sometimes it’s tough to separate yourself and little things you don’t like to share with anybody because you have your routine, [but you] immediately shut it off and be a coach to help other pitchers…” said Pavlik. “Being around the game so long, [it] seems the guys respect me and [are] able to take from both aspects when I’m both pitching and coaching.”
“The object is for everyone to get picked up and get an opportunity to play or go back to affiliated ball,” said Pavlik. “I hope everyone takes their time to understand [that] when they get back to affiliated ball, be who you are and [don’t let] anything get in front of that.”
Pavlik has encountered some other adjustments, such as a new manager in Matt Padgett and a franchise that’s under new ownership.
“I go back a bunch of years with [Matt Padgett] and [have] known him as a player,” said Pavlik. “Last year, he was our coach and [I] could tell [that] he was going to be a great manager. It so happens [that] everything fell his way this year and [he’s] done an absolutely phenomenal job. [He] kept the clubhouse tight knit and made some great managerial decisions.”
Hailing from Rutherford and now living in Paramus, Pavlik relishes in the fact that he gets to play in his own back yard at Yogi Berra Stadium in Montclair. This season marks the 20th year for the organization.
“A wonderful experience, great fans and environment,” said Pavlik. “I’m very lucky to be a part of that and Yogi Berra Museum brings so much rich baseball and New York Yankees history.”
One question that Pavlik always gets asked is why does he keep coming back year after year?
“Every year after the season ends, people ask if you are going to do it again and I say it’s too hard to walk away when you’re with these guys every single day and [you] respect the guys who had their jersey peeled off regardless of what sport it is,” said Pavlik. “Sometimes you dedicate your whole life to it and work for it and [you realize that you have] been fortunate to play every season.”
If you ask any athlete what their goal is while playing an organized sport, it is to win a championship. The same goes for Pavlik, who has been close to winning a title with the Jackals organization in recent years.
“There have been tough losses against Rockland and Trois-Rivieres in 2014 and 2015 and Quebec a bunch of years but you get to the playoffs and understand how many things have to go the right way…” said Pavlik. “I have tremendous respect for the teams’ that come up short. Obviously the drive is to win a championship, it’s the number one goal and [I’m] continuing to work towards that.”
A walk-on at Seton Hall University, Pavlik did not pitch immediately. Instead, he played in the outfield his freshman year before eventually making his transition to the pitcher’s mound.
“I went to Seton Hall, following the dream of getting drafted professionally and making it to the big leagues,” said Pavlik. “Once you learn how this whole baseball industry works, some things don’t work out in your favor. I have to thank the coaching staff at Seton Hall, Rob Sheppard and Phil Cundari [who are] absolutely incredible and [are] part of my family.”
Pavlik has some advice for high school and college baseball players who dream to play professionally.
“Money has something to do with being drafted and college is not for everyone, so it’s smart to take that opportunity and see how far you can go,” said Pavlik. “If the opportunity does not work out with an affiliate, you can come and play independent baseball.”
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