Major League Dreams

Harvard pitcher Jay Driver hopes to be selected in the Major League Baseball draft.

Right-hander Jay Driver mid-pitch

Among the children chasing foul balls, the firetrucks serving as a stadium gate, and the players devouring hot dogs 15 minutes before first pitch, Jay Driver ’24 treated his final game in the Cape Cod Baseball League just like any other. For that June 29 game, the right-hander was not on the Hyannis Harbor Hawks’ active roster. He nonetheless played hacky sack with his fellow pitchers, went through his full stretching routine, threw some warmup pitches, and watched from the dugout. Next week, Driver hopes to hear his name called during the Major League Baseball draft, something he could barely imagine a few years ago. But Driver’s coaches, teammates, and friends are less surprised; with his work ethic, humility, and love for the game, they say, he could go far.

Update Saturday, July 15, 10:15 a.m.: Crimson pitchers Chris Clark (fifth round, Angels) and Jay Driver (ninth round, Guardians) were both drafted. Read a Harvard athletics announcement here.

Driver describes himself as a “late bloomer.” Hailing from Wellesley, Massachusetts, he threw his first 90 miles-per-hour pitch as a high school junior. Although he says he was “never really a top prospect growing up… or the star on the team,” in high school, college coaches started paying attention. Harvard was the final school to give him an offer. His sister, Eve Driver ’20, was about to graduate from the College, and he easily decided that the school “[felt] like home.”

Yet his college experience did not start as planned. He enrolled during the COVID pandemic, which spoiled on-campus athletics. But he made the most of the situation. Academically, the economics concentrator found remote classes “a nice way to get your feet wet with college.” To maintain his pitching form, he worked out at Cressey Sports Performance, commuting in the fall from Cambridge to Hudson, Massachusetts, and spending the spring semester at their complex in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Through strength training and pitching coaching, he got his fastball up to 94 mph, top-tier for an Ivy pitcher.

Despite his clear talent, Driver struggled in his first collegiate competitions. In his summer with the North Shore Navigators in Lynn, Massachusetts, he surrendered 16 runs in just 20 innings. But back at Harvard the next spring, he thrived as a reliever. Driver opened the season with 12 straight scoreless innings against some high-profile opponents, and his fastball touched 97 mph, catching the attention of prestigious Cape Cod summer teams. “I called and texted him relentlessly,” says Harbor Hawks general manager Nick Johnson. “Anyone can tell you that Jay is a great baseball player, but he’s a great human being.”

Jay Driver before his final game with the Hyannis Harbor Hawks
Photograph by Max Krupnick/Harvard Magazine

During his sophomore summer in Hyannis, Driver impressed people on and off the field. The Harbor Hawks Director of Analytics, Johnny Davis, touted Driver’s skill and noted that “in most of the pitch grading, he’s like top-five in the Cape League.” His teammates praise him as a champion mini-golfer, an entertaining friend, and a knowledgeable resource about an array of subjects (pitcher Ethan Lanthier jokes that he expects “him to know everything… because he’s from Harvard”). Brea Lassek, a Harbor Hawks sideline reporter, described him as “an intern’s dream.” “You always feel bad asking the guys to talk, to come up to the booth,” she said. “He’s the guy who—when we’re losing six to zero and I need a postgame interview afterward—he will do it.”

Driver takes a unique approach to pitching, adopting a “low three-quarters slot” delivery. When he takes the mound, the 6’3” righty puts his glove up to his face, lunges forward, continues to lower himself, cocks his right elbow, and whips his wrist from bottom to top to side. He bites his lower lip, grimacing, his eyes bulging. His near-sidearm delivery yields a slider with a ton of movement, which makes batters swing and miss. In addition to his scorching fastball, Driver is trying to incorporate a change-up.

When pitching as a starter rather than a reliever, his velocity comes down a bit, but he enjoys the challenge of each role. This season for the Crimson’s varsity squad, he worked exclusively as a starter. There were some rough outings, but Driver wasn’t discouraged. “Ultimately, baseball is a game of small failures,” he said. “You’ve got to love the game even when it challenges you.”

Following his junior season, Driver returned to the Harbor Hawks hoping to impress against top opponents and shore up his standing for the draft. But more than performance, he wanted to come back because he loves Cape baseball, saying that the previous summer “was literally the best… of my life.” He has been living with his girlfriend’s family in Barnstable, walking on the beach after his long gym sessions, and eating steaks, burgers, and sausages that his mom meal-preps (he makes his own breakfasts: six eggs scrambled with cheese and bacon). In his second Cape summer, Driver wowed audiences and scouts, tossing nine scoreless innings and striking out 12 batters.

Next Monday, July 10, his Harbor Hawks teammates will return to the home field that smells like a mix of sea breeze and sweat to repaint the lines, shape the mound, and place the bases. Jay Driver will be at home in Wellesley, refreshing the draft tracker on his phone. He’ll be texting his roommate and fellow draft prospect, Chris Clark ’24. Once the second day of the draft begins at 2 p.m., Driver will “make sure my ringer’s on and I’m fully charged, just in case that call comes in.” And if it does, Driver will be ready to answer.

Read more articles by: Max J. Krupnick

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