When Joe Jacques returned to his apartment Thursday night and saw he had missed a call from Triple-A Worcester manager Chad Tracy, he didn’t know what had happened. It had started as just a normal game night, but when Jacques called back, he sensed something was different.
“How would you like to play in Yankee Stadium [Friday]?” Tracy asked.
The question made Jacques, a left-handed reliever who went to Red Bank (N.J.) Regional High School and was a walk-on at Manhattan, shiver.
He was shocked.
The 28-year-old would have the chance to make his MLB debut with more than 100 family members and friends in attendance throughout the Red Sox’s series against the Yankees in The Bronx.
“It’s really just a dream come true,” said Jacques, who did not pitch Friday in Boston’s series-opening 3-2 victory. “It’s been a whirlwind, but, I mean, I’m at a loss for words for being able to make my debut here.”
At times during his lengthy baseball journey, a chance to pitch in the majors seemed distant, especially a decade ago, when Jacques made an academic deposit to attend Florida Atlantic.
About a month before Jacques would’ve started attending FAU, he convinced himself that he would regret not trying out for a college team.
“You just can’t tell me I can’t compete at this level,” Jacques said he thought at the time.
So he walked into the office of Jim Duffy, then Manhattan’s head coach, was impressive throughout the tryout and not only made the team but also took a spot in the Jaspers’ starting rotation. Jacques recorded 206 strikeouts across his five-year career, and he was drafted in the 33rd round in 2018 by the Pirates, his organization until the Red Sox snagged him in December.
At times, Jacques felt he was close to the majors. In 2021, Pittsburgh had traded some left-handed pitchers, and he thought a spot might open. But on July 27, after Triple-A Indianapolis’ starting pitcher didn’t last an inning, Jacques entered the game and allowed eight runs, and “that kinda blew my chance,” he said.
This year, Jacques had a 3.58 ERA across 23 games with Worcester.
A dropped arm angle — something Jacques experimented with at Manhattan, Duffy told The Post — helped him keep hitters (specifically left-handers, hitting .167) off balance against his two-seam fastball, slider and changeup.
“I’ve just always had the belief in myself that I can just adapt and grow at each level and just become good enough,” Jacques told The Post.
Then came the call from Tracy.
It still hadn’t hit Jacques by Friday afternoon. He’s certain that wouldn’t happen until he walked out onto the field at Yankee Stadium, when “it’s just going to get that much more real.”
“I’m thrilled for him, but I’m not surprised,” Duffy told The Post. “I’m really not. … He’s been acting, practicing and training like a major leaguer since he was a freshman at Manhattan College.
“He was just different.”