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09/16/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 09/17/2021 07:44

IMA, USAFA grad first to play MLB

BUCKLEY SPACE FORCE BASE, Colorado --

Capt. Griffin Jax put his baseball dream on hold when he joined the Air Force, but the flexibility of being an Individual Mobilization Augmentee has allowed him to take the mound again … and this time, he's playing for a Major League Baseball team.

Jax made Air Force Academy history earlier this summer as the first cadet to play at the MLB level. He made his debut June 5.

Now his year is split between two unique careers. During the baseball season, Jax, #83, pitches for the Minnesota Twins. On the off-season, he switches to his military position. As an Air Force IMA supporting the Space Force, Jax is assigned to the Digital Analysis and Assessments Division and works as the IMA to the chief of the Resources Branch in Space Operations Command.

Baseball has been a part of Jax's life since he was five years old. He played other sports as a child, but he said baseball was his favorite.

'I can definitely see how it catches a lot of heat from people who aren't into the game for it being kind of slow, but I always really enjoyed [the game] and the subtle intricacies of it,' the pitcher said.

By middle school he was thinking about playing professionally. In high school, he saw himself as 'middle of the pack,' but the MLB saw potential. The Philadelphia Phillies offered him a spot on the team, but Jax turned it down.

'I didn't have aspirations to sign straight out of high school; I wanted to go to college first.'

Jax decided to go to the Academy. Although he said he was excited to play for a Division 1 team, his main focus was earning his education.

'I knew going to the Air Force Academy would set me up for some pretty cool life opportunities and experiences that I wouldn't find anywhere else,' Jax said.

In 2016, Jax's junior year, he was drafted by the Twins and made an agreement with the school. He was to play ball for the summer, finish senior year, and then return to the team. But a month or so prior to graduation, he was told he needed to complete active-duty commitment first.

'When I graduated in May of 2017, I thought baseball was going to be put on the backburner. I went into my first duty assignment with the understanding that I wouldn't be able to play for roughly two years.'

Only six months into his position, he applied to the World Class Athlete program, an Air Force-sponsored program that allows Airmen to train for an Olympic sport. Since Jax fell into the 2020 Olympic window, he applied. After acceptance, he stopped his day-to-day job and started training again.

In spring of 2019, Jax transferred to the reserve using the Palace Chase program. He found an IMA position and started in November. Seven months later, he received the call he'd been waiting for. It was official--time to play ball.

'When the season's over, I have to shift gears and focus on something completely new,' the captain said. 'I have something else to pursue and better myself at.'

Jax said he couldn't have asked for a better unit to serve in, and HQ RIO, the organization that supports all the Air Force IMAs is excited he's part of their team as well.

'Capt. Jax is an excellent example of the flexibility inherent in the IMA program,' said Col. Jason L. Cashman, HQ RIO Detachment 3 commander. 'Even with the demands placed on a professional athlete, he is able to continue to serve his country. Managing dual careers can be challenging at times, and I applaud his motivation to continue to support Space Operations Command and the Air Force Reserve.'