SAUGET — Belleville East High School graduate Jimmy Jacquot's baseball career brought him back to the metro-east for a few days.
Jacquot is a catcher for the Florence Freedom, who are playing a three-game series this week against the Gateway Grizzlies at GCS Ballpark.
Jacquot said he hasn't played here since his freshman and sophomore seasons at Southwestern Illinois College in 2007 and 2008.
"It's family that hasn't been able to see me in a while," Jacquot said before the Freedom's 5-4 win over the Grizzlies. "Everyone wants to come out, and it's awesome."
Jacquot had about 30 friends and family members in the stands during Florence's 11-7 loss to the Grizzlies on Thursday night. He was expecting at least 15 people on hand on Friday night.
Jacquot said his father and mother, Jim and Joyce Jacquot, of Swansea, traveled to watch him play on many occasions.
"I don't ever go longer than really a month without seeing them," Jacquot said. "They've been great about that. In college, they made it out almost ever weekend, and in pro ball, they've been traveling all around to watch me."
Jacquot said he played at GCS Stadium a few times during his high school and America Legion baseball days.
"This isn't new to me," Jacquot said. "The turf is new. Back when I was in high school I played here a few times when it was grass. I like it. I wouldn't love it if I was a pitcher. It's a great hitter's park."
Jacquot transferred from SWIC to the University of Cincinnati for his junior and senior seasons. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Chicago White Sox in 2010.
Jacquot turned in a solid season for the White Sox's Great Falls affiliate in 2011, hitting .280 with 12 doubles, five homers and 35 RBIs.
Jacquot, 24, started out with Class A Kannapolis in 2012, but he was released just a few weeks into the season. He batted only eight times.
"I played in two games," Jacquot said. "It just shows you how much it really is about money. They had guys who were getting paid, and even guys I played in front of, guys that I was younger than. There was really no reason that I had for getting cut. They felt they needed to release a guy because there were too many catchers in the organization, and I guess I got chosen."
Jacquot, who lives in the Hyde Park area of Cincinnati, ended up signing with the nearby Florence (Ky.) Freedom of the Frontier League.
"That was the first team that called, and I was happy with it because St. Louis is home, but Cincinnati is home for me as well," Jacquot said.
Jacquot started off hot for the Freedom, but he has cooled off a little as the season has progressed. He's currently hitting .242 with four homers and 24 RBIs.
"I was hitting well the first half of the first half, and I started getting tired because I was playing every day," Jacquot said. "My legs weren't getting under me. My mechanics were off a little, so I was struggling at the plate. After three days for the All-Star break, I've got my legs under me and I'm looking to start strong in the second half. (I'm going to) Try to make better adjustments in the second half offensively."
While he feels like he's capable of being an above-average hitter, Jacquot said his strong suit is his defense.
"I feel like I have a strong arm and I'm good at leading the pitching staff and blocking balls," Jacquot said. "I also feel that I can hit. Catching gets in the way sometimes. I do put that first."
Jacquot's hopes his stint with the Freedom will earn him another shot with a major league-affiliated team.
"That's still the ultimate goal obviously," Jacquot said. "I can't say I don't love being the everyday guy being here, but at the end of the day the ultimate goal is to move onto affiliated ball again. I would love to have that opportunity."
Jacquot feels like he has some unfinished business in affiliated ball.
"If I went to affiliated and I felt like I couldn't play or couldn't excel, I wouldn't feel that same way," Jacquot said. "I know I can play at that level, I know I can succeed at that level."
During the offseason, Jacquot gives hitting lessons. He started out by working with former Belleville East assistant coach Brian Gibson's son, Josh, 11, and his teammates with the O'Fallon Bulls.
"I study it, and I'm really into the whole hitting aspect of the game," Jacquot said.
Once his playing days are over, Jacquot would like to coach on the collegiate level.
Jacquot said his experiences as a catcher have prepared him for coaching.
"I have to know what everybody is supposed to be doing at all times," Jacquot said. "And, I played a little bit of first base in affiliated, so I know how to field groundballs a little."
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.