Finding a home: Jordan Adams choose Central Michigan after Northern Iowa baseball program collapses
A text message lit up freshman Jordan Adams’ phone in February 2009 while he competed in the Iowa state high school wrestling tournament.
It was Steve James, coach of the Iowa Select club team, asking if he had heard the news: the University of Northern Iowa, where the 6-foot-3, 215 pound catcher committed to play baseball for just four months prior, was considering ending its baseball program amid budget concerns.
“I think he thought I had already known about it, but I had no idea,” Adams said. “I talked to my dad and he said it was just a rumor because he didn’t want me freaking out during the wrestling tournament.”
Despite ongoing speculation, Adams and his family were under the impression the program was stable.
“Being from the area, it’s always been a rumor that UNI was going to cut baseball,” said Tony Adams, Jordan’s father. “In the state of Iowa, wrestling isn’t going anywhere. They brought in a new (athletics director) and he said in the Des Moines Register that he would not cut any programs.”
Adams, who wrestled for three years and finished third in his weight class during his senior year, quit football after tearing the labrum in his shoulder his freshman year. He said it was after that he decided his dream was to play collegiate baseball at a Division 1 level.
But then the rumors became reality.
On Feb. 23, 2009, Northern Iowa held a news conference to announce its decision to eliminate the baseball program from its list of sponsored sports, citing a 9 percent reduction in state funding that would cut $500,000 to $600,000 from the athletic department budget.
“It took me by surprise,” Adams said. “When I got recruited, the big deal there was that they were going to build a brand new field on campus or they were going to put a bunch of money into the field they shared to upgrade that. Every indication was that the program was going to get stronger.”
Northern Iowa Athletics Director Troy Dannen gave players and supporters about two months to raise the $1.2 million needed to fund the program for three years. While players and supporters scrambled to find the money to keep it alive, many began looking elsewhere for other opportunities.
FROM IOWA TO ... MICHIGAN?
After it became apparent the program was not returning, Adams and his father took matters into their own hands. The both of them went online and did research, looking for schools in need of a catcher.
“We e-mailed a bunch of schools, and CMU was one of the schools that got back to us,” Adams said. “I was into the Perfect Game (video) stuff, went to showcases and I played for a bunch of different coaches that could reference me. Really, they had never seen me play.”
CMU was one of the schools that received an e-mail from Adams. After watching video and talking to other coaches, CMU coach Steve Jaksa called Northern Iowa coach Steve Huller, who he had a relationship with through previous meetings between the two schools.
Sensing the program was not going to return, Heller gave Jaksa his full blessing on acquiring Adams.
“We knew we were interested in Jordan, we knew he signed there, and I finally called Coach Heller and talked to him about it,” Jaksa said. “At that point, we started talking to Jordan. We arranged a visit, he came up here and liked what he saw. We were fortunate enough to get him.”
Tony said his son made up his mind immediately after a making a trip to the state, visiting CMU and Eastern Michigan, which also offered Jordan a scholarship.
“Once we left Central Michigan, his mind was pretty much made up,” Tony said. “He had opportunities to go to other schools and he didn’t want to do it. He fell in love with Mount Pleasant — it was more like Northern Iowa, not Ypsilanti, with that big-city setting. Everything felt right for him.”
Jordan Adams jumped on the radar of schools fairly quickly in his high school career.
He played baseball for five years at Newman Catholic High School in Mason City, Iowa, where his dad was the coach. The summer after eighth grade — Iowa schools play summer baseball — he made the varsity team and finished second-team all-state.
“It was kind of crazy the way it happened,” Adams said. “I was on (junior varsity) a little bit and then I worked my way up to the backup catcher role. I started one game and went 3-for-4 — did really well — and then I had a couple pinch hits and I kept hitting the ball pretty well, so I got moved to the starting right fielder for the rest of the year.”
Adams went on to finish first-team all-state for the next four seasons with his dad at the helm, at which point he committed to UNI over more prominently known Iowa.
A decision, Jordan said, that he made because of familiarity and proximity to home.
“I liked their baseball program a lot better,” he said. “Nothing against Iowa, but I felt more comfortable with coach Heller. With the coaching staff there, I felt that the program was going in the right direction. Everything just felt to fit better for me there.”
Jordan’s father considers the relationship the two developed through baseball as something special. He and his wife, Pam, plan to be in attendance this weekend for CMU’s series against Akron, cheering Jordan on just like they would have had he donned the purple and gold.
“Any father that coaches his son, he’ll always tell you it’s a good experience,” Tony said. “We set guidelines that baseball is baseball and once we got home it’s father-son and we won’t talk about baseball unless he wanted to. I love the game itself and Jordan grew up the same way. He loved the game, too, and he kept wanting to get better and do things that make him better.”
Since joining the Chippewas over the summer, Adams is batting .200 with seven runs batted in through 15 games as the backup catcher to senior Dale Cornstubble.
But more than any statistic can tell, Adams has enjoyed a level of comfort.
“I love it here,” Adams said. “Nothing against Northern Iowa, but I truly think I would like it here more. I think I would’ve picked CMU over Northern Iowa had CMU offered me in the first place.”