NEW YORK – Jacob May is in his third week as a major leaguer, and the Chicago White Sox center fielder still is searching for his first hit.
Sure, 0 for 24 doesn’t look pretty, but he has a close reminder it could be worse.
Starting slowly is something of a May family rite, it seems. Jacob’s grandfather, Lee May, began his career 0 for 14 and waited over a year from his debut to finally get his first hit.
“It’s like, ‘OK, I’m not the only one that’s ever started off slow like this,’” Jacob May said Wednesday.
Lee May got his first call-up with the Cincinnati Reds in September 1965 and went 0 for 4. The next season, he was hitless in eight early season at-bats before being demoted to Triple-A Buffalo, then had another hitless game before finally getting a seventh-inning double at Philadelphia on Sept. 11, 1966.
Lee May retired 16 years later with 2,031 hits in 2,071 major league games. So no, Jacob May isn’t too concerned about his own untimely slump.
The 25-year-old May is a speedy center fielder who batted .273 over four minor league seasons before cracking Chicago’s opening day roster. Over the weeks since, his grandfather’s voice has been in his head a few times, reminding him to “keep your head up” and that “it doesn’t come easy.”
Jacob May grew up in Cincinnati, where Lee May still lives, and the two are close. Jacob said his family, including Lee, mostly left the baseball instruction to his actual coaches, but Lee has been a source of support and advice on the game’s mental rigors.
As of Wednesday, the two hadn’t spoken since closer to opening day, although Jacob received a call from his grandfather early in the day that he planned to return Thursday. Jacob figures Lee wanted to talk about the hunt for his first hit, although Lee has already been on Jacob’s mind as he’s endured the skid.
“One thing I can say, if you’ve ever met him, he doesn’t lack in confidence,” Jacob May said. “It’s a good thing. I’ve definitely, I see now, that’s arguably the most important thing to have here. You have to believe in yourself.”
In that regard, it seems he’s channeled his grandpa well.
“I’ve been very impressed with his professionalism and the way he’s been going about his work and the way he’s kept his chin up,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. “Again, you hope the baseball gods smile on him here soon and he gets at least a bleeder or a gork or something that gets him off the schneid.”