PDS Alum Alu Moving Up the Ladder for the Nationals, Starring for Double-A Harrisburg After Getting Promoted
ON THE MOVE: Jake Alu heads to first base in recent action for the Harrisburg Senators, the Double A affiliate of the Washington Nationals. Infielder Alu, a former Princeton Day School standout, was promoted to the Senators after hitting .303 with five homers and 19 RBIs in 39 games for the Wilmington Blue Rocks, a High-A team. Keeping up his solid play at the higher level, Alu is batting .285 in 44 games for the Senators with five homers, 22 RBIs, 23 runs, and 11 doubles. (Photo provided by Jake Alu)
By Bill Alden
Heading into 2020, Jake Alu was primed to move up the ladder for the Washington Nationals organization.
Former Princeton Day School baseball star Alu, who went on to a stellar career for Boston College, made a fine Minor League debut at Auburn in 2019 after being selected by the Nationals in the 24th round of the draft that year.
Displaying his trademark grit and versatility, infielder Alu batted .257 with one homer, 25 RBIs, 13 runs, and five doubles in 39 games for the Short-Season Class A club.
But the pandemic hit in March 2020 and the Minor League campaign was canceled across the country.
Utilizing the work ethic that helped the undersized but scrappy 5’10 Alu become a college star and a Major League draft pick, he resolved to make the most of his time after he was sent home.
“Last year was definitely what you made of it, either you worked really hard or you didn’t,” said Alu.
“It changed some players for the better and changed some for the worst.”
Alu worked hard to get stronger and fine-tune his hitting. “I never had that much time to really get after it for an extended period of time,” said Alu, who did weight training in his garage.
“I usually have to stop going crazy in the gym if we have a season coming up. That was big for me strength-wise. I did a lot of work with the TrackMan numbers [a machine measuring ball tracking data] when I was in the offseason. If I did something, am I hitting the ball harder, am I hitting the ball farther, all that stuff. I had a lot of time to work on that stuff. I think it played into the season really well.”
That diligence paid off as Alu was assigned to the Wilmington Blue Rocks, a High-A team, and hit .303 with five homers and 19 RBIs in 39 games. By early July, Alu was promoted to the Harrisburg Senators, the Double A affiliate of the Nationals.
Alu welcomed the initial assignment to Wilmington. “I was excited, I was definitely close to home,” said Alu.
“I was excited to have family and friends come out to watch, get in the car and take a quick trip up to the games.”
Getting back on the field was special for Alu and his teammates,
“I loved it, everyone had the same thoughts. It was a relief, we are finally playing again.”
Getting into rhythm at the plate, Alu played well for the start for the Blue Rocks.
“It was huge, I felt like when I got back out on the field, I can compete with anybody,” said Alu.
“I am just excited to keep learning and to keep trying to move up the ladder.”
It didn’t take long for Alu to move up the ladder as he was called up to the Senators on July 2.
So far, Alu has adjusted well to the higher level of ball, hitting .285 in 44 games for the Senators with five homers, 22 RBIs, 23 runs, and 11 doubles.
“You can see a significant difference in the pitching from Single A to Double A,” said Alu.
“Every step, they get better and better. These pitchers can throw the ball wherever they want to, whenever they want to at 95 miles an hour. There is some good late breaking ball stuff. They have got it all.”
In order to deal with the better pitching, Alu has learned to be flexible.
“I have just kept a simple approach and try to pick up on pitchers as quick as I can and start making adjustments,” said Alu.
“I think making adjustments in baseball is the biggest thing. You have got to learn with each pitch instead of each at-bat. The quicker you adjust to them, the better you are as a hitter.”
Alu’s hitting approach also includes a focus on basics. “I just stay up the middle, try to hit the ball hard and get my barrel over the ball,” explained Alu.
“The harder it comes off the bat, the higher chance you are going to get a hit. I just work on that. The big thing for me is to lower the chase rate, close out my strike zone a little bit and be more disciplined at the plate.”
Another big thing Alu brings to the table is his defensive versatility as he has played 29 games at third base, six at second, and one at first for Harrisburg.
“I think being able to play a bunch of positions is huge, especially in this age of the game that we are playing,” added Alu, who has also played eight games as a designated hitter.
“It gives you a better opportunity to be in the starting nine every day. That is huge for me that I am able to go out there and play any position defensively. All the routine plays have to be made now. The guys around you are better; it is good because it makes you a better player from playing with them. You pick up on stuff, it is awesome. I just prefer one of the positions in the first nine.”
While Alu’s goal is to play in the major leagues someday, his chief concern is getting better on a daily basis.
“I am just going to keep playing and try not to focus on any of that stuff,” said Alu.
“It is stay within yourself and whatever happens, happens. You have got to put yourself in an opportunity where you could make it up to the big leagues.”