After leading Oregon with a .308 batting average and six home runs as a junior, Jakob Goldfarb expected to get a call during the major league baseball draft.
Then three days and 40 rounds passed in June without any mention of Goldfarb, who earned honorable mention all-Pac-12 honors last season as an outfielder.
“That definitely hurt and I’ve got a chip on my shoulder this year,” Goldfarb said. “I am still looking to get picked up and play pro ball. I don’t think there’s any reason why I shouldn’t be able to. That was a shock.”
Goldfarb had some options as he headed to the Cape Cod League to play for Cotuit and Wareham during the summer.
A couple of pro scouts asked Goldfarb about the possibility of signing as a nondrafted free agent, but he declined. After graduating from Oregon in the spring, Goldfarb could have transferred to another school and been eligible to play next season.
UO coach George Horton made a pitch to Goldfarb about returning to Oregon as a catcher to boost his value in the draft.
“Ultimately, I decided it was in my best interest to come back here,” said Goldfarb, a two-time honorable mention all-academic selection by the Pac-12 who is taking some political science courses while applying to law school. “I spent my whole life wanting to play pro ball so I am going to keep that my dream and focus for now.”
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Goldfarb played catcher at times during his senior year at Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, Ariz. He was behind the plate during summer ball following his sophomore season at Oregon. Goldfarb worked at catcher with the Ducks last fall, but was sent back to the outfield when the season started.
“I think a lot of scouts liked me as a catcher in the fall and winter and they were hoping to see me catch during the year,” Goldfarb said. “I think it ended up hurting me a bit that I didn’t catch.”
As an example of how pro teams value catchers, Oregon’s Ray Soderman was selected in the 22nd round by Atlanta after hitting .225 during his first season with the Ducks out of junior college.
“Goldy was knocking on the door to get time at catcher last year with his investment in the fall and we went in a different direction with Soderman,” Horton said. “I was real surprised somebody didn’t sign him. He had opportunities to sign and he chose to take a path to get better as a catcher for us. Add that to his utility ability being a left-handed hitter and he might get some money to sign (next year). The most important thing about signing is making your way up the ladder and with his skill, he may become a major-league catcher. That’s the plan.”
Goldfarb said he turned down the free-agent offers during the summer to get experience at catcher.
“I wanted to come back here and catch for a year before I took up that position in pro ball,” he said.
Oregon began fall practice this week without a catcher who has played that position in a Division I game. Junior-college transfer Cameron Campbell sat out a redshirt season last year while freshmen James Bell, Aaron Zavala and Heath Pickhardt can also play the position.
Goldfarb is expected to be the starter after showing off his arm by setting the school’s career record for outfield assists with 12.
“(Catcher) has a shorter arm action, but I don’t have a problem with it,” Goldfarb said. “There is some different footwork, but the big thing for me is to get a quick release. I have a strong arm so getting rid of the ball quickly is a big thing for me now.”
Oregon has 10 pitchers back from last season with four freshmen and one junior-college pitcher added to the staff.
“We have a lot of returning pitchers I caught last fall, so I am comfortable with them,” Goldfarb said. “It will be a learning process to get to know the new guys and teach them the system and earn their trust.”
Goldfarb, who missed the 2017 season with a foot injury, has a career .274 average with nine homers and 54 RBIs. He enters his final season with 22 doubles and 54 walks as he nears the school’s all-time leaders in both categories.
“I think I had a good year, but I fell off a little at the end of the season,” Goldfarb said. “I’d like to finish strong and have an even better year.”