The former American Baseball Coaches Association National Player of the Year and key member of the 2012 Stony Brook Baseball College World Series team, Travis Jankowski, returned home to his alma mater on Saturday. The outfielder was inducted into the Rita and Kurt Eppenstein Stony Brook Athletics Hall of Fame.
Jankowski is currently an outfielder on the San Diego Padres, but he first made his mark on the national stage in a Seawolves uniform. In three seasons with the team, he compiled a program record 79 stolen bases and also holds the single-season record in batting average, hits, runs, stolen bases and triples.
“This is actually the first Hall of Fame I’ve been inducted to, so Stony Brook gets it out of the way before my high school,” Jankowski said. “It’s such a proud moment for myself. It kind of just is a testimony to all of the coaches here too, who helped me all throughout my career here. Everything they have done for me has paid off.”
The left-handed hitter was selected by the Padres with the 44th pick of the 2012 MLB Draft, the highest draft selection in program history. He completed his third season with the Padres two weeks ago. He spent most of the 2017 season recovering from a foot injury, tallying just 87 at-bats.
However, Jankowski had 30 stolen bases in his rookie campaign in 2016, the second most among rookies that season behind shortstop Trea Turner of the Washington Nationals.
He spoke with current Stony Brook Baseball players prior to the induction ceremony about what it takes to reach the MLB.
“I told them ‘you guys deserve the experience I’ve had, playing in front of 40,000 people in the Major Leagues’,” Jankowski said. “Everyone of them has the talent and ability to do it. If they can hold up on the mental side, they’ll be in the big leagues in no time. I couldn’t stress to them enough that they are big leaguers right now, they just have to realize it in their minds.”
Jankowski believes the 2012 College World Series team fed off of their ability to believe in themselves, each other and the notion that together they can beat anyone. Jankowski led off the top of the lineup for the 2012 team that defeated LSU the Super Regional, a best-of-three game series. LSU is respected as one of the most successful baseball programs in College Baseball history, winning six College World Series titles. The historic series win, in which each game was aired nationally on ESPN2, helped put Stony Brook in the national spotlight.
But in Jankowski’s eyes, it was never about him. He recalled how close his the team was with a smile on his face as he looked off into space, sifting through memories of one of the most improbable runs in Division I baseball history.
“We were a band of brothers out there, and I can’t stress that enough,” Jankowski said. “No matter what the situation was in the game we knew were going to win somehow, some way.”
The team’s head coach Matt Senk has long been dubbed a players manager by his former players. His ability to help his players grow as men and work together in a cohesive unit is why his former players, including Jankowski, make sure to keep in contact with him.
“His career is epic,” Senk said. “With Travis’ numbers here, it’s going to take a tremendous player. Him being a first round draft pick, co-national player of the year, MVP of the Cape Cod [Baseball] League the previous summer. Hopefully he’s not going to be one of a kind but he’s going to be tough to top.”
Jankowski strolled through the campus during homecoming weekend, observing how it has evolved, from the Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium renovations to the deconstruction of the Student Union. But his favorite off-campus spot to grab a bite to eat has remained the same and he confirmed it was as satisfying as ever.
“My fiance came up here with me and the first place I had to take her was Se-port Deli,” Jankowski said of the popular deli long frequented by Stony Brook students. “I had to go get a ‘Gasm’. The Gasm is the go-to. It’s legit.”