By Greg Ostendorf
AUBURN, Ala. – All Luke Jarvis needed was a break, something to go his way.
The San Diego native went the junior college route out of high school and was playing at Saddleback College, just up the road from where he grew up. After a strong fall, he thought maybe he could play just one year and move on to a Power Five school.
However, that spring Jarvis noticed a cyst on his left wrist. He played through the pain, but it affected his swing. Then, in the first round of the playoffs that season, he broke his leg. He had to wait until he was off crutches to have surgery on his wrist, so it wasn’t until August when school was starting back that he could do any baseball activity.
The cyst returned a month later, and it turned out it was a partially frayed tendon that forced him to sit out his entire sophomore season.
“It was like ‘What the heck?,’” Jarvis said. “‘Can I get a break?’ There were a lot of times when I was redshirting my second year where I was sitting there going, ‘Oh my gosh, there are people in the big leagues that are my age, and I’m going to play a third year at juco.’”
It was at that point that Jarvis considered giving up baseball altogether and going to work for his dad installing solar panels.
“Even my grandma was like, ‘Are you sure baseball is right for you?’”
But that thought never gained much traction. Baseball was all Jarvis had ever known, and he felt like he owed it to his dad to fight through the adversity and continue playing.
“My dad’s really been a big influence,” Jarvis said. “Especially with sports, he’s always the one who’s kind of steered me toward baseball. I know he gets a real big kick out of watching us play. I’ve got two brothers, too. In a lot of ways, it was because of him that I never really could quit.”
That next year, Jarvis focused on simply having fun, and it was no surprise that when fully healthy, he enjoyed a breakout season. The third-year player hit .371 with two home runs, 34 RBI and 12 stolen bases. He was a first-team Orange Empire Conference selection at shortstop and named second-team All-Region.
Because of the injuries, there wasn’t much recruiting interest in Jarvis until that spring. Auburn was in the market for a middle infielder, though, and when the coaches went to see Jarvis play, he put on a show. Two weeks later, he visited Auburn and the choice became easy.
The Southern California native signed with the Tigers even though that visit was the first time he had ever stepped foot in the South.
“It was definitely different driving out here,” Jarvis said. “And then I had no idea that it was a forest. I had no idea that there were this many trees out here.
“California is very arid. It’s like a desert. So you can always see what’s around you and get your bearings. And then there are hills and stuff, so you’re always on top. You kind of have a feel for where you are and what’s around you. You get out here, and it’s just like there’s a wall of trees everywhere. I had no idea what street goes where and stuff.”
Jarvis has since discovered his way around Auburn, and he’s also become a mainstay in the starting lineup the past two seasons with the Tigers. Last year, he started 48 games and hit .276 with five home runs and 27 RBI. This season, in 47 games, he’s hitting .271 with two home runs, 21 RBI, and he’s cut his error total (five) in half from a year ago.
The senior, who was named to this year’s SEC Community Service Team on Wednesday, will play what could be his final series in Plainsman Park this weekend as Auburn welcomes LSU to close out the regular season.
“I’ve thought about it, but it hasn’t really set in yet that it’s just about over,” Jarvis said.
Though he has plans to return to California to work with his dad – who will be in attendance for the LSU series this weekend – if the professional baseball route doesn’t work out, Jarvis will never forget his two years at Auburn.
“Auburn will always be very, very special,” Jarvis said. “It’s become a home away from home. I’ve never had homesickness out here. It’s been everything that I hoped I would find in a college town. The fans are awesome. I couldn’t find better guys to play with, (better) coaches – which is a big deal. I wanted to find a good fit. Butch (Thompson) has been unquestionably one of the biggest influences in my life. He’s the best guy. It’s been incredible. I’ll always love Auburn.
“If I were to move anywhere else, it would probably be out here. I love this place.”
Greg Ostendorf is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: