Jason Fletcher

Baseball star copes with injury, loss and heartache on the field. (Photo by Jenn Schopfer)

Jenn Schopfer

Baseball star copes with injury, loss and heartache on the field. (Photo by Jenn Schopfer)

Jessica Maynard and Jessica Maynard

With bases loaded and two outs, the opposing team’s cleanup hitter steps up to the plate. He stands on the mound with a distinct tattoo, peeking out from under the left sleeve of his jersey, lips pursed as he shakes off a signal from his catcher; he negates a few more before he and the catcher finally agree upon a pitch. He throws a fastball that skates across the edge of the strike zone; the batter connects on the pitch, hitting a pop fly caught by an outfielder ending the top of the inning.

For American River College baseball pitcher and utility player Jason Fletcher, a sophomore, this scene has occurred many times. Fletcher, a first team all-conference player from the 2012 season, has only been able to pitch in five games this season due to a nerve injury in his throwing arm.

“It started last year. My last three starts, my elbow was giving me some problems and I thought that it would get better over summer and it hasn’t,” Fletcher said. “It’s just getting to the point where I can start pitching again.”

Overcoming adversity can be a tough feat for most people, but Fletcher isn’t your average person. He has overcome the loss of his father, the financial struggles his mother went through, and giving up his option to play Division 1 baseball to keep playing at ARC.

“Mentally he doesn’t get flustered. He’s steady,” baseball head coach Doug Jumelet said. “He’s been through a lot in his life that other people haven’t had to deal with. Things that have made him grow up and handle the curveballs life throws at you. This is fun for him, it’s the easy part.”

JUMP: Fletcher’s tattoos express memories of loved ones

Baseball is Fletcher’s escape. When he was 16, turmoil arose. His father died.

He has three tattoos showcasing the heartache he has overcome. The first one is a bird landing onto two roses on his left arm that you see every time he puts on his jersey.

“My dad actually died when I was in high school,” Fletcher said. “He had two kids with my mom, me and my sister, and this signifies me and my sister and that’s him. It represents us.”

A portrait of his grandmother is tattooed on his calf.

“She was the sweetest lady in the world and she took care of me, my sister, and my mom when we had down times. Just a beautiful woman inside and out,” Fletcher said.

The words “Carpe Diem,” [seize the day] are tattooed on the inside of both forearms.

“To me it means don’t dwell on all of the negatives that happen and take each minute as a positive experience,” Fletcher said.

His biggest fan is his mother, even though she may not get to attend all of his games because of a hectic schedule; Fletcher knows she’s rooting for him.

“She’s in here in spirit,” Fletcher said as he points to his heart. “I can feel her love when I’m on the field. I definitely do all of this stuff for her.”

Fletcher’s will to succeed on the field is inspired by his family. He currently leads the team in batting average, hitting .369 for a team that has played the toughest schedule in Calif. He has pitched five games this season, with an ERA of 4.76.

“It’s been great knowing there is a guy on the team who can get a hit or a double at just about any at bat,” Jumelet said. “It would be nice if he could have pitched for us all season long. Last year, it was nice when he pitched, we knew we had a chance to be in every game.”

He is the kind of guy who doesn’t need to speak in order to set the tone for his teammates. He holds himself accountable for his actions, he leads by example and his teammates and coaches respect him for that.

“When I’m out here, I feel like everything that’s going on off the field goes away,” Fletcher said. “I just focus on things out here, not anything else.”