Army outfielder Jacob Hurtubise chose West Point primarily for its academics, and playing professional baseball wasn't on his radar after struggling through an injury-plagued freshman season.

It is now, even though the coronavirus pandemic has cut short a chance to improve his chances. Hurtubise is hopeful of taking advantage of a new regulation that allows cadet-athletes at Army, Navy and Air Force to delay their military obligation upon graduation to pursue pro sports careers.

“I think that having the opportunity and the option to be able to go and play professional athletics immediately upon graduation is huge,” Hurtubise said.

Next step: batting helmet or battle helmet?

Hurtubise, whose postgraduate service will be in air defense artillery, already is in select company at West Point. He's just the 14th player in academy history to be picked in the MLB draft, selected in the 39th round last year by the Seattle Mariners.

Pitcher Chris Rowley is the only Army player to reach the major leagues, making his debut in 2017 for the Toronto Blue Jays.

“You want every player to have that dream of playing as long as they possibly can," Army baseball coach Jim Foster said. “Guys come here for a lot of different reasons. There’s a bigger picture. They want to have a great option A and a great option B. I think this place provides that. Jacob shows that it can be done.”

Hurtubise got off to a rocky start at West Point. He broke his hand as a freshman and played the entire year with the injury, batting just .238 in 49 games.

“He didn’t really hit much, but he showed the kind of toughness you just don’t see, played every day, played great defense," Foster said. "Year two he really took off. He got more confidence and got more aggressive and then his junior season he got even better.”

Did he ever.

The speedy, 6-foot, 190-pound, lefty-hitting Hurtubise batted .375 in 2019 as Army's leadoff hitter and set academy single-season records for runs (71), walks (69, third in the nation) and steals (45), and was second in Division I in on-base percentage (.541). He also earned defensive player of the year honors in the Patriot League and led the Black Knights to their second straight league tournament title.

In the championship game last May against arch-rival Navy, Hurtubise reached base five times, going 2 for 2 with three walks, stole a base and scored twice in a 4-3 win. He was named tournament MVP after batting .522 and scoring eight runs in six games.

“The ways that he impacts the game are incredible,” Navy coach Paul Kostacopoulos said. “He's as explosive of a runner as you're going to see in college baseball, and he can make some plays in the outfield. In my opinion, those two tools match up very well on the next level."

That season and playing for the United States Military Academy got the attention of the Mariners.

“The caliber of person that he is — Jacob is a pretty remarkable kid — and what he’s gone through being at a military institution is pretty incredible," Mariners scout Dave Pepe said. "Those things being considered were really impressive resume points for him.”

Hurtubise added another nugget to his resume last summer. He played in the Cape Cod League, one of the premier summer college circuits in the nation, and hit .319 (23 for 72) in a league where the overall batting average was .250.

He did that, too, after completing three weeks of military training.

“Before my first game, I had just come out of the woods,” Hurtubise said with a laugh. “But I had a pretty good summer."

The 22-year-old Hurtubise was named 2020 Patriot League preseason player of the year. Then he pulled a hamstring prior to the opener and started only five times before the pandemic ended the season.

“It was crazy how everything went down. I was just starting to get back,” said Hurtubise, who finished his Army career with a .301 average and is the all-time leader — at Army and in the Patriot League — in stolen bases (105 with 22 caught stealing) and walks (142).

The date of the MLB draft and its format remain undecided as Hurtubise tries to stay in shape back at home in Zionsville, Indiana, before he graduates in June.

“My goal and my dream is to get drafted again," Hurtubise said. “I’m still getting contact from scouts just checking up on my health and whether baseball is my career path.

“All the scouts are obviously aware of the unique circumstances that I’m in. They want to make sure baseball is what I want to do. That is what I want to do, but it’s kind of out of my control at this point,” he said.

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