In the morning quiet, long before the start of batting practice, Jake Adams found a Quad-City area fishing hole to be the perfect spot to think about his future.
The solitude provided the Astros’ seventh-round selection in baseball’s 2017 draft and the former Iowa All-American with the perfect spot to reflect on where he has been, where he wants to be and formulate a game plan for how to get there.
Adams took a step in that direction on Sunday, promoted by Houston to its high-A affiliate Buies Creek after going 3-for-4 with a double and a triple to help Quad-Cities rally from a 6-0 deficit to beat Beloit by an 11-7 score.
Before taking the field that day, just two days before his anniversary of being selected by the Astros in the draft, the Brandon, South Dakota, native talked about how his game has grown over the past year.
"I’m doing what I’ve wanted to do my entire life, but I’m such a different player now than I was when I was drafted," Adams said. "When I think back to then and look at where I am at now, the change is so evident. I’m becoming the player the Astros saw when they drafted me."
In the year since Adams was breaking home run records for the Hawkeyes and helping Iowa to its first-ever Big Ten tournament title, he has rebuilt his swing, grown his defensive game at first base and improved his pitch recognition abilities.
It’s all part of the process.
Adams understands that now more than ever.
"You think you know what pro ball is all about, but once you become part of it you see it differently," he said. "The grind is just that, the day-to-day work of getting better and understanding the game and what it takes to be successful."
Since homering in his first at-bat a year ago at for short-season Tri-City, Adams has been tested.
He batted .170 over 48 games last season in the New York-Penn League, warmed to a .264 start in 15 April games for Quad-Cities this year and hit .282 for the River Bandits in the 33 games since.
Adams’ .277 average for the season shows growth in nearly every area since the start of May, collecting nine of his 11 doubles, both of his triples, six of his eight home runs and 24 of his 31 RBIs since that date.
The work he has put in over the past 12 months is beginning to pay dividends.
It started with the reconstruction of a swing Adams had used since he started the game.
The big cuts he used to launch balls out of the park growing up were replaced by a shortened, tighter swing and although there were some initial growing pains, Adams now sees the benefit.
"Every single day since last season, at Tri-City, back home, back in Iowa City during the winter and now, I’ve worked on developing the consistency I need to make it work," he said. "I’m working to take the ball to the opposite field more, to drive it right-center or right. That’s something I’ve never focused on, but it needs to be there."
Because of the power in his bat, Adams has seen a lot of off-speed pitches in recent weeks and has concentrated on developing his pitch recognition ability.
He said he is seeing the ball much better now as it is released by the pitcher, gaining a better understanding of what is coming his way and how to deal with it.
If a pitcher makes a mistake, Adams remains ready and willing to make him pay, understanding that the power potential he possesses will always be an important part of his game.
"It’s why the Astros drafted me, but I have to be and I want to be more than that. I want to my offensive skills to develop to their full ability," Adams said. "I feel like I’m taking steps in the right direction."
River Bandits manager Mickey Storey sees that as well.
He said the work Adams has put into his approach this year extends beyond the confines of the baseball diamond.
“I think he’s learning the focus and concentration he needs on each pitch, and he has gained an understanding that he doesn’t control the strike zone. The zone is what it is, and the umpires make that determination. As a hitter, you have to deal with that," Storey said.
"There are a lot of good pitches to hit. What Jake sees now is how to make those pitches work for him and tone out the rest of it. What we’ve seen the last few weeks is his make progress in that area, and that’s big for him."
Adams appreciates that, along with the development he has seen defensively, as much as anything.
He’s in his fourth year of playing first base but has found what he has learned while working with coaches in the Quad-Cities to be significant.
"I’ve learned a lot here about footwork, hand-eye coordination, things that can help me play the position well and make the most of my athletic ability," Adams said. "It’s all helping me."
Thinking back to the excitement of the day he was drafted to where he finds himself now, Adams appreciates the journey he now finds himself on.
He’s thought about that a lot recently, often while waiting for a nibble on the line at his favorite fishing spot.
"I’m happy I’ve had the chance to come back to Iowa and like my time in Iowa City, I’ve learned so much here," Adams said. "I’m fortunate to have the chance to play here in Davenport. It’s a good environment to learn. The coaches, the people, the Iowa fans, they’ve been so supportive, and that’s made this a special year."
It has provided Adams with the chance to grow, develop and prepare for the tests he will face in the Carolina League.
"I understand that the learning will continue every step of the way," he said. "When I think back, I appreciate how far I’ve come and that helps me understand that the work isn’t done. I’m better prepared now to deal with that, and that gives me a chance to get to where I ultimately want to be."