With a strong connection to college baseball, Maine Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and current Bowdoin Pitching Coach Jason Jensen brings his own unique experience in the sport to his coaching philosophy.
In 1997, Jensen pitched two complete games to help the University of Southern Maine (USM) win the Division III World Series. In two stints on the mound—one in the series opener and the other in the championship clincher—he posted a 1.00 ERA and struck out 16 batters. He received the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award for his performance.
Then, just six days after winning the championship, Jensen was drafted in the 18th round of the MLB draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. While he enjoyed playing professionally and still maintains many friendships from his time in the minor leagues, Jensen ultimately prefers the college baseball experience.
“It’s those years that you really develop those solid, lifelong friendships. My coach is still coaching today, so twice a year I get to see him on a baseball field because we typically play [USM] twice a year. So that experience [is] unreal,” Jensen said in a phone interview with the Orient.
After four years in the minor leagues, Jensen returned to USM to finish his history degree. He also transitioned from playing baseball to coaching.
“I always knew that I was going to stay in [base]ball, and I think part of it is from my upbringing,” Jensen said. “I grew up in a really poor neighborhood with a single mother raising three kids, so we came from a pretty challenging background, and baseball pulled me out of a lot of bad things that were happening with people around my age. I always knew that I wanted to give back and knew that I’d do whatever it took to get back to the game.”
Following coaching stints at Biddeford High School and Portland High School, Jensen began coaching at Bowdoin in 2011 and became a full-time coach in 2015. In his second season at the College, the team reached the Division III regional tournament.
“I think going to that regional tournament with that group of guys was awesome because I’ve been there,” Jensen said. “I would equate it to the Division I teams that get to play in the national tournament. It’s just that experience that you can’t take away from those guys and that they will always have. So that was really cool to be able to see them and how they reacted to those moments.”
Jensen emphasizes the importance of mental toughness in his coaching because he believes that it can be a key element in helping players succeed. He feels that this philosophy fits in well with the game of baseball.
“A lot of the experiences that we give [the players] are more life experiences through the game of baseball,” Jensen said. “The way I’ve always seen it is that baseball is the one sport where if you can make it through, it’s built around failure. Even the best players in the world will fail seven out of ten times, and then they become hall of famers. It’s that mental toughness that it instills in people to push through hard times—I think it’s a classroom in and of itself.”
In 2007, Jensen was inducted into the USM Husky Hall of Fame. Eleven years later, in the summer of 2018, he was inducted into the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame.
“It was a surreal moment for myself and my family because I only played three years of college baseball, so I never thought of myself ever having the ability to get in there just because I only had three years of numbers and all of that stat-driven stuff,” Jensen said. “But it was an awesome honor to have them think of me as a hall-of-famer for baseball.”