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Thousands of miles away, new Rays pitcher watches wife in Olympics

John Romano | Recently acquired Jake Reed joined Durham just in time to watch wife Janie Reed win a silver medal in softball.
In this photo provided by USA Softball, Jake and Janie Reed pose for a photo in Clearwater, Fla., in February 2020. Janie was on a training field at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, in Western Japan when her husband Jake made his Major League debut earlier this month with the Dodgers. Jake, recently acquired by the Rays, was preparing for his first game with Triple-A Durham on Tuesday while Janie played in the Olympic gold medal game for the USA Softball team.
In this photo provided by USA Softball, Jake and Janie Reed pose for a photo in Clearwater, Fla., in February 2020. Janie was on a training field at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, in Western Japan when her husband Jake made his Major League debut earlier this month with the Dodgers. Jake, recently acquired by the Rays, was preparing for his first game with Triple-A Durham on Tuesday while Janie played in the Olympic gold medal game for the USA Softball team. [ JADE HEWITT | AP ]
Published Jul. 27

It was the middle of the night by the time Jake Reed arrived alone in Norfolk, Va., and checked into a waterside hotel.

He had spent the previous day packing up one temporary home and pondering the challenges of finding another. In the past two months, the right-handed pitcher had been released by the Angels’ Triple-A team in Salt Lake City, signed by the Dodgers and sent to their Triple-A team in Oklahoma City, promoted to the big leagues for the first time at age 28, designated for assignment, and claimed on waivers by the Rays.

And now he was arriving in Norfolk, after a night of travel delays, to join his new teammates with Triple-A Durham. He got to his room sometime around 2:30 Tuesday morning and set his alarm for shortly before 7 a.m. to make sure he caught his wife at work.

You see, while Jake was hop-scotching around the country the past few weeks, Janie Reed was busy playing leftfield for USA Softball and had a date in the Olympic gold-medal game against Japan in Tokyo on Tuesday morning.

“Yeah, being here watching the game alone in a hotel in Norfolk while she’s in the Olympics is just crazy, it really is. It’s a crazy story that you couldn’t write,” Jake said Tuesday morning. “But it’s just par for the course. With the way our lives have gone, we had been preparing for this moment without even knowing it.”

Fate, it turns out, has a wicked sense of humor.

Jake and Janie had spent years chasing parallel dreams ever since meeting as freshman athletes at Oregon in 2012. Jake was drafted in the fifth round by the Twins in 2014, Janie made the USA national team a year later, and the couple were married in 2017.

But Jake seemed forever stuck in Triple-A and Janie had to wait years for softball to make a reappearance in the Olympics, and then suffered through another delay after the 2020 Games were postponed by the pandemic.

And when the stars finally aligned, they were in different orbits.

Jake made his major-league debut on July 6 in Miami while Janie was at practice on a Marine Corps base in Japan. When she made her Olympic debut on July 21, it was the same day the Dodgers designated Jake for assignment.

Still, there are no complaints. Janie downloaded the MLB app, and USA coaches were monitoring Dodgers games while she was on the field working. When Jake began warming up before the sixth inning of the July 6 game, Janie went into the stands to watch him pitch on her phone.

This week, Jake returned the favor. He was traveling with a Fire TV Stick to make sure he could find NBC’s softball feed no matter where he was. Japan ended up winning 2-0, but Janie got two of the USA’s three hits, including a triple, and she kept the game close when she went above the wall in leftfield to rob a two-run homer in the sixth inning.

“She had a great game and she made that unbelievable catch, but she’s bummed. She’s hurting right now,” Jake said. “That’s the kind of player she is, she’s going to care more about her teammates than what kind of game she had.”

Meanwhile, Jake still has his own hills to climb. A power pitcher early in his career, Jake could not quite get over the hump with his offspeed pitches. He had a 1.92 ERA in his first three seasons in Triple-A in Minnesota, but Twins officials let him know they didn’t see much future for a pitcher who threw hard but didn’t have a lot of movement on his pitches.

By 2019, Reed decided he had to make a change. He dropped down to a sidearm delivery and became more of a slider/sinker pitcher. He was sacrificing velocity on his fastball, but his slider now had impressive lateral movement.

He’s been studying Rays reliever Ryan Thompson to better understand pitch usage and setting up hitters while throwing sidearm, and he’s excited about working with Rays officials on his delivery.

“I was at the point of my life and career where I was on board with any change I had to make. There was a little adjustment with the ego, not seeing 97 and 98 mph on the radar gun, but once I got past that, it’s been great,” Reed said. “The best thing is it’s still pretty new to me and I have a ton of room to get better. I’m in a place now where I think they can really help me get to where I think I can be.”

John Romano can be reached at jromano@tampabay.com. Follow @romano_tbtimes.

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