Michael Jahns knows one dream ends this week, but another could begin next month.
Jahns, the Maui Interscholastic League baseball Player of the Year in 2007 when he led St. Anthony High School to its first pennant in 29 years and the Division II state championship game, will reach the end of his college career at Northwestern University this week with three nonleague games against Saint Louis.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Jahns has grown immensely - in several ways - from the time he arrived on the Evanston, Ill., campus as a skinny 17-year-old in 2008. So much, in fact, that he is a legitimate pitching prospect for Major League Baseball's draft, scheduled for June 4-6.
Michael Jahns is 2-1 with a 2.06 ERA in 17 appearances during his senior season at Northwestern
Northwestern Athletic Communications photo
"I was definitely hoping, but it is hard to imagine that I could make it this far with baseball," Jahns said in a recent telephone interview. "Going back to Little League and all that, where my coaches told me that I was lucky to even get to play the game. How many guys get to play it for as long as I have been playing it?"
Jahns has been up and down in his college career, but has a team-best 2.06 ERA in 17 appearances covering 35 innings this season. His 2-1 record makes him one of only two Northwestern pitchers on the plus side of the ledger.
At 6-18 in the Big Ten and 17-34 overall, the Wildcats do not have the six-team conference tournament on their horizon.
Jahns was 1-1 with a 3.56 ERA in 17 appearances as a freshman, but his 3-2 mark as a sophomore came with a 7.56 ERA. Last season, he started eight times and was 2-5 in a career-high 58 2/3 innings with a 4.30 ERA.
"It has been the fastest four years of my life, but it is something that I will never forget and I have played a game that I will remember forever," Jahns said. "I have played against guys who have been drafted in the top two rounds and even from high school days I played against (former Kamehameha Maui standout) Dayton Alexander, who I saw got picked in the sixth round last year."
This season Jahns has settled into middle relief, and has 38 strikeouts with 10 walks.
"Four years ago, I was throwing 85 miles an hour out of high school," he said. "I came here pretty much doing the same thing, but I got stronger, got bigger. The weight program that we have been on
has allowed me to put on some weight, add some velocity and gain some strength.
"I have tweaked my mechanics up since I have been to college and now my fastball is hitting 91, 92 and my curveball is a lot harder and a lot sharper - it is an out pitch for me. I can thank Stods for that."
"Stods" is Wildcats pitching coach Tim Stoddard, a 15-year major leaguer with six teams.
"He came in as a youngster," Stoddard said. "He still had a lot of growing to do both mentally and physically. He has worked hard on the weights and conditioning to get himself to that point where he has picked up speed and endurance."
Stoddard said he feels Jahns will get the call from someone on draft weekend, a rarity for a college middle reliever.
"I think someone will give him a shot, especially being a senior," Stoddard said. "He is throwing the ball anywhere from 88 to 91. His curveball is his pitch. The key is this year he is throwing that for strikes consistently. His curveball is a plus curve, absolutely."
Jahns will graduate in four years, receiving a communication studies degree next month.
"It is tough playing a Division I baseball program and get through your academics at any place, let alone a place like this," Stoddard said. "Michael has worked very hard to do all of that. It is not easy what we ask the kids to do, it really isn't. We are cold and windy here and he is used to shorts and flip-flops. It was a culture change, but he handled it very well."
Jahns is savoring all of it.
"Playing at Northwestern, you don't really know how special it is to get the education and the level of baseball," he said. "I didn't really realize until my senior year how fast this has gone."
He has shared his senior season with his father. Alan Jahns, who has spent the last seven weeks in Evanston, was president of Kihei Little League during Michael's days there, and a constant presence as scorekeeper for St. Anthony games as well.
"I am really lucky that my dad can take off from work and come see me play, being so far from home," Michael Jahns said. "My dad coming to watch me reminds me of high school at St. Anthony and when I hear him in the stands, cheering me on or to tell me to throw strikes."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org