Jake Lufft is getting accustomed to the spotlight.
After earning Class 5 first-team all-state honors from the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association in the spring, this summer he was named the MVP of the Junior Sunbelt Classic in Oklahoma and the annual American Legion Springfield Holiday Classic tournament. And he likely would have been a shoo-in for the MVP Award at the 29th annual American Legion Wood Bat Invitational – with a 12th-inning, walk-off homer in a nail-biting, extra-inning semifinal win and what would have been the game-winning RBI in the championship game – only to see Jefferson City come back to score two unearned runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to rob his Blue Springs Rod’s Sports A’s of their second consecutive championship.
“Jake is a big time player,” A’s manager Mike Rooney said. “When you need the big hit, he’s going to get it for you. I know he had a great junior year at Blue Springs High School and he hasn’t skipped a beat this summer in American Legion ball.
“He’s one of those players you want to watch every time he comes up to the plate because he can do something special.”
Tim McElligott, his Blue Springs baseball manager, agrees.
“Oh man, Jake is a natural,” McElligott said of The Examiner’s 2017 High School Baseball Player of the Year. “I am so excited for Jake. It’s an honor he deserves and he earned. He does things other players simply can’t do – and we have him back for another year!”
Lufft finished his junior season with the Wildcats with a .464 batting average, .523 on-base percentage, .784 slugging percentage (1.306 OPS), 45 hits, 11 doubles, six home runs, one triple, 31 RBIs and 22 runs scored in just 29 games. He was also a force on the mound for Blue Springs High School, going 3-0 with one save, a 2.76 ERA and 30 strikeouts.
“It’s an honor to win the player of the year award because there are so many great players in the area,” said Lufft, who had just arrived home after a recruiting visit to Drury University in Springfield, Mo. “But I don’t let anything like winning a tournament MVP or winning The Examiner’s Player of the Year Award go to my head.
“I’m going to keep working hard and go out and do my best for the A’s, just like I tried to do for the Wildcats. The statistics aren’t that important to me. The only thing I really care about is winning, and I figure my teams have a better chance of winning if I hit the ball well.”
When asked about McElligott calling him “a natural,” Lufft grinned.
“Well, it all comes naturally to me,” the outfielder/third baseman said. “I have never had a hitting coach, except, of course, for the coaches on my team. I’ve never gone out and had private hitting lessons or anything like that.
“I just never thought I needed one. Hitting is a lot about your mental approach, and I think I’ve always had a strong mental approach to the game.”
In the Wood Bat Invitational on July 9, Lufft put an end to a 12-inning semifinal game with a two-run homer that put the A’s into the championship game. When asked if he was trying to hit a home run, Lufft shook his head no.
“I was trying to hit the ball hard,” he said, “but I don’t go up trying to hit home runs. That’s when you get in trouble.”
Lufft said he has been playing baseball since he was old enough to walk, and can’t imagine life without the sport he always seems to conquer.
“I love Blue Springs High School baseball and A’s American Legion baseball,” he said. “I watched my older brother Jeremy play for the Wildcats and the A’s when I was younger and I dreamed about playing for those teams.
“Jeremy (who now plays baseball at Rockhurst University) is my biggest fan, and now, I’m dreaming about playing college ball or maybe getting drafted. Who knows? We’ve talked with some scouts from the Royals and that would really be a dream come true to be drafted by your hometown team.
“I’m just going to enjoy the game and see what happens.”