08/02/2016 4:37 PM
Jordan Cooper enjoys pitching near his home of Topeka. (File photo by John Ellis.)
By SHANNON FOSTER
As Jordan Cooper talks after batting practice in the Tweet Suite prior to a recent game at CommunityAmerica Ballpark, several things become apparent quickly.
It’s obvious that Cooper loves being in Kansas City, but he’s focused on more. He’s experienced in this game but not jaded by experiences. He’s the stereotypical “good clubhouse guy” but he’s probably a quiet leader. And, perhaps as important as anything for T-Bones fans, Cooper comes off as thankful for the opportunity to be playing for a team in his home state.
See, Cooper is a Topeka native, who once struck out 19 batters in a game for Shawnee Heights. His high school career, which included his fastball being clocked at 94 miles per hour, was good enough that the Boston Red Sox selected him in the 17th round of the 2008 MLB June Amateur Draft. After exploring his options and discussing the decision with his parents, though, he declined the offer, choosing to go to college and play for the Wichita State Shockers.
“I wanted to enjoy the college experience,” says Cooper. “Getting drafted was not what I was looking for. I had buddies from my summer league attending Wichita to play on their baseball team, and I wanted to have fun and experience college life with them.”
During his sophomore year with Wichita State, Cooper started in 15 games for the Shockers, striking out a total of 95 batters throughout the season. He ended the season with a 10-3 record and 2.01 ERA, and was named a 2010 All-American. The Shockers ended the season with a winning record and as MVC Regular-Season Championships.
Two years of college ball was enough for Cooper, however, as he was drafted again in 2010—in the ninth round by the Cleveland Indians. This time around, Cooper accepted the offer to play professionally.
“It was time to challenge myself,” he said. “After two good years with Wichita, I was ready to try professional baseball.”
Cooper spent six years in the Cleveland organization. His most enjoyable year was 2012, because of his teammates at high-A Carolina.
“We all brought something to the table,” says Cooper. “We were from all over the United States, and all over the world. They were a great group of guys and we still contact each other. We had a good connection that year and formed strong relationships.”
Cooper continued to rise in the Indians’ organization. He reached double-A for the first time in 2013, and then reached triple-A Columbus in 2014 before spending the majority of his time in ’15 and early ’16 in Columbus. He had a winning record in triple-A (5-4 with a 4.20 ERA).
Early this year, after posting a 1-0 record with a 3.00 ERA at Columbus in three games (no starts), it became apparent to Cooper that he wasn’t going to pitch as regularly as he wanted to, and the majority of his time was going to be out of the bullpen. So, after talking with his coaches, he asked for his release.
With he and his wife Camri expecting their first child this fall, he immediately got in touch with two Kansas teams: Wichita and Kansas City. At the time, the T-Bones had a need for starting pitching, so he signed here. It doesn’t hurt that he’s close enough to his home in Topeka that he can see his wife more than two or three times a season.
“I wanted to make playing baseball fun again,” he said. “That’s definitely been the case here in Kansas City.”
He views Kansas City as a perfect opportunity, because he knows the area well and loves the stadium. Cooper enjoys the fans and their consistent attendance and support. At times, he says, there are more fans attending games at CommunityAmerica Ballpark than fans that attended games in the affiliated minors. Now, back in Topeka, Cooper and his wife are closer to their friends and family, who attend more games ready to cheer on Cooper.
Playing in Kansas City is also a chance for Cooper to play with former Indians teammate Anthony Gallas. The two formed a relationship while playing together in Mahoning Valley in the New York- Pennsylvania League in 2010 and again in 2015 for the Columbus Clippers.
As the American Association regular season gets set to resume Thursday, following Tuesday night’s All-Star Game, Cooper is 3-2 with a 3.79 ERA in 13 games (all starts) for Kansas City this season. In 78 1/3 innings, Cooper has struck out 37 and walked 25. In his last start, Saturday night at Winnipeg, Cooper had one of his best outings, as he gave up only two runs and scattered five hits in 8 innings. He left with a lead, but the T-Bones gave up three runs in the bottom of the ninth and lost 5-4.
That won’t deter Cooper’s mindset when he takes the mound the next time. He has a specific mindset whenever he steps on the mound as a starter.
“You have to dominate the game,” says Cooper. “You have to be overly confident, because confidence is everything.”
And, with a little luck, an affiliated team will take notice of his numbers and his confidence and give him another shot.
“I’d like to get back into (affiliated) ball, and play in the major leagues, but I’m enjoying my time here to work things out,” Cooper said. “I’m treated well here, and the fans are awesome. It would be fun to win a championship with the T-Bones.”