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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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LaViolette brings big bat, big goals into 2024

After overcoming a slow start to his freshman campaign, Jace LaViolette enters 2024 with the same determination that made him an All-American
Photo by Ishika Samant
Freshman OF Jace LaViolette (17) gets pushed in a cart after a home run during the 8th inning during a game vs. Alabama on Friday, May 12, 2023 at Blue Bell Park.

Jace LaViolette faced a difficult decision: Boy Scouts or baseball?

Growing up, Texas A&M’s sophomore OF was given a choice by his mother on what he could devote his time to. Ultimately, he went with the latter.

Safe to say that decision is paying off.

“It’s probably the best decision of my life to play baseball,” LaViolette said. “I’ve met some people throughout this game that it’s just hard to put into words how much these people mean to me. It’s been a hell of a ride.”

Fast forward to 2024, and LaViolette finds himself as a cornerstone of the A&M baseball team with high aspirations under coach Jim Schlossnagle. A return to the College World Series would more than likely have LaViolette’s fingerprints on it after his college career began with a Freshman All-American season and is projected to wrap up with an early selection in the 2025 MLB Draft.

Dreams of taking the Aggies back to Omaha are nothing new, with his baseball aspirations dating back to his childhood in Katy. Looking back, he’s already achieved several of them and is on pace to accomplish much more.

“I’ve wanted to be a Major Leaguer for, honestly, as long as I can remember, since probably t-ball,” LaViolette said. “I remember I’d go home and just sit and watch videos on YouTube of big leaguers or college baseball … for countless hours. That really kind of drove the love of the game for me even more.”

It didn’t take long for him to make his goal of playing college baseball a reality, although it wasn’t initially apparent that it would take place in Aggieland. Rather, LaViolette opted for an SEC rival before deciding to stay home.

“I was committed to LSU under [associate head] coach [Nolan] Cain for probably three or four years, since I was 14, 15 years old,” LaViolette said. “He left LSU to come [to A&M], and I decided that it was the best decision for me to leave, decommit from LSU and come [to A&M] … I think we have the best coaching staff in the nation, and I’m never shy to say it. I think you can’t really get a better coaching staff than what we have here, and if you want to be elite, this is where you come.”

In the meantime, LaViolette launched an impressive prep career at Tompkins High School. He capped it with a senior season in which he hit .591 with 11 home runs, 53 runs batted in, 32 extra-base hits and 13 stolen bases.

Those numbers made LaViolette the highlight of the Aggies’ 2022 recruiting class and, along with a fall season that turned heads, placed the spotlight on him entering the 2023 campaign. In a scrimmage versus Lamar, he hammered three home runs, including one that traveled an eye-popping 506 feet to Wellborn Road.

Such performances led to big expectations for LaViolette’s rookie year. On-field results, though, left much to be desired, as the heralded freshman found himself struggling to maintain a spot in the starting lineup while hitting at a sub-.220 clip in nonconference play.

“It sucked, honestly,” LaViolette said. “Everybody’s a normal human being, and whenever you’re going through that, you’re [doubting] yourself. You’re asking yourself, ‘Do I even belong here,’ which is what my biggest thing was. I was like, ‘Do I even belong in this conference? I can’t hit out-of-conference play, what am I going to do once it starts up?’”

As seeds of self-doubt began to plant themselves, conversations with Schlossnagle and the A&M coaching staff sought to keep LaViolette grounded and restore belief in himself.

“They just kept telling me, ‘You’ve got to stick with it, you’ve just gotta keep going,’” LaViolette said. “We always talk about [how] you’re always going to come out of the bad times. You can’t just continuously, honestly, suck. You’re always going to come out of it. The biggest thing for me was I couldn’t ride the highs and lows of being good, being bad, sucking, being great … It was the greatest opportunity.”

That confidence from the coaching staff proved to pay off as it spurred a turnaround of LaViolette’s historic season. He finished the year with an A&M freshman record 21 long balls, .287 average and 63 RBI, including a .835 slugging percentage in SEC play that ranked first in the conference. His home run and RBI count led the team, as did his 18 stolen bases.

Or, it could have been as simple as a sweaty practice shirt.

“Halfway through the year, I started wearing my [batting practice] top after I was sweating in it … all day,” LaViolette said. “I would wear that during the game. I will say, it was a little weird. That was strange, people got on to me about it, but I was like, ‘I need it. I need to wear this.’”

Regardless of how it happened, LaViolette proved himself one of the team’s most impactful players on a roster littered with veterans. He didn’t prove his value more than in a matchup with Mississippi State last season, when he belted three home runs, including a go-ahead 3-run blast as A&M was down to its last out.

“It was no surprise to any of us,” assistant coach Michael Earley said. “I think it just is a tribute to his talent level and his work ethic and how he grew up and how he matured throughout the year.”

LaViolette’s development put the country on notice as well, earning him Freshman All-American honors from a variety of college baseball outlets. It also gave him a spot on the USA Baseball Collegiate Team, allowing him to represent A&M on a national stage.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to represent your country,” LaViolette said. “It’s hard to put into words just how much it means to me and to all the other people watching. We had a game, it was on the Fourth of July … it literally looked [like] a scene from ‘The Sandlot.’ The fireworks were going in the background … all the people in the stands started chanting ‘USA’ and I legit started almost tearing up.”

The experiences of the past year have led LaViolette into this spring, where he aims to serve as a mentor to the Aggies’ newcomers, armed with the knowledge he gained during a freshman season that was far from easy.

“I think he’s a great resource for those guys,” Earley said. “I think his experience of experiencing everything is great, and he can really pass that down to the other guys. We have other recruits like Jace with those high expectations. I think just having him around would be good for them. He’s really taken on a leadership role, and he just continues to grow up as a player and a person.”

The Maroon and White hope that leadership and experience will pay off in the form of a run through the NCAA Tournament. If you ask LaViolette, though, he’ll keep things a bit more simple.

“I’m more focused [on] just one game at a time,” LaViolette said. “What’s our first game, and after that, whenever we get there, we get there. Everybody knows what we want … It takes a lot to get there, and it takes a lot of hard work and it takes a lot of going through the lows that not everybody gets.”

LaViolette maintains that one-day-at-a-time philosophy, regardless of what his future may have in store for him. You won’t find him paying close attention to draft boards or prospect rankings. For now, he’s just enjoying being an Aggie.

“As coach [Schlossnagle] has said before, if you live in the future, it brings anxiety, if you live in the past, it brings depression, so just live in the present,” LaViolette said. “I don’t really think about playing pro ball much. I just live with what I’m doing here in Aggieland. Whenever my time comes, then I might think about it a little bit more, but until then I kind of keep a level head and just ride out what I’m doing here.”

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About the Contributor
Luke White
Luke White, Sports Editor
Luke White is a junior telecommunication media studies major and sport management minor from Round Rock, Texas. He has served as head sports editor since May 2023.
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