It’s a Thursday afternoon practice and the cool dryness of the Albuquerque air has a piercing touch. Coaches, players and staffers are all wearing long sleeves, jackets, or are layered in clothes to keep from the cold.
Standing near home plate, watching his teammates take batting practice, is Jared Mang — the 5’9 senior outfielder out of Los Alamos, New Mexico.
He is wearing a red long sleeve emblazoned with a Lobo and a baseball diamond around it. To keep from the cold, he also has on a skull cap, though it's noticeably wrapped around his neck — to keep warm — with his helmet atop his head.
Jared is up to hit next. He gets set. Then he takes a couple pitches from Jon Coyne, UNM baseball's new infield coach and recruiting coordinator, before taking those big swings he is accustomed to. One, two, three balls fly to the outfield with ease, no slight in his step.
That’s something Jared has been doing most of his life — looking at a pitch, and then swinging at it with power and precision — learning through the process of it all.
As a high schooler at Los Alamos, he was named Gatorade Player of the Year in New Mexico — not once but twice. He won the first award as a junior, and followed that up by winning it as a senior.
During his junior season, Jared hit .605 at the plate with 35 runs scored, followed by a similarly impressive senior season, in which he went .559 with five home runs and 33 runs.
But baseball didn’t start for for Jared in high school. He started to play tee-ball around the age of four or five, then he played club ball, most notably for the Albuquerque Baseball Academy — a prominent United States Specialty Sports Association program based in New Mexico. It also helped that both of his parents had played baseball at some point in their lives, as have his siblings.
He played football his freshman year of high school, but by the time he was 16, he said, he realized baseball was the best sport for him, especially in terms of trying to reach the next level.
“(I am) just trying to get better and get to do this for a career,” Jared said.
But don't get it twisted. He wants to focus on the now first and foremost.
“I’m just trying to focus on having a good season and helping us win some ball games,” he said.
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Jared said individual accolades have little to no value to him as a player. Ask his mom, Jacki, or his brother Connor — who is a sophomore and plays with him at UNM — and they’ll tell you the same thing.
“He’s just a born leader,” Connor said.
That stems from his work ethic. Usually, Jared is accustomed to perfecting his craft outside of, say, practice. Even if that means getting to the baseball complex just a tad earlier than pretty much anyone else.
“Yeah, I usually get here early and do stuff on my own before practice just so I can just get those extra reps in,” he said. “I usually just hit the tee a little bit, hit off the machine. If it’s a nice day, head out on the field and just watch the ball fly a little bit.”
Jared not only shines on the field, as he’s been one of UNM’s best hitters so far this season averaging above .400 at the plate, but he’s been stellar in the classroom too. He was named to the 2018 All-UNM Academic Team — an award given to the best performing athlete in the classroom in each sport.
He walked in a cherry cap and gown in December, and will be receiving his diploma in liberal arts — which he says has three focuses: psychology, communications and sociology.
But Jared, for the most part, has gotten all his attention on the field—and for good reason. He’s been an active participant—if not a key component—to a New Mexico team that has been known for producing high octane offensive players over the years.
And he’s been doing it since he first arrived at UNM.
Jared appeared in 59 games as a freshman, starting 48 of them and hitting at a .291 clip as he adjusted to facing NCAA Division I talent.
His breakout season came during his sophomore year, when he led the team in batting average at .373 and in hits (90) over his 57 games played. He had nine runs, 17 doubles, contributed 62 RBI and 63 runs, all in the same season—and it awarded him All-Mountain West Baseball First Team honors.
His junior season, however, was supposed to be even bigger. And although he hit at a high rate of .284, he most impressively led the team in home runs with eight. That was all in an acute time frame, as his season was hampered 29 games in by a hand injury.
Jared is better, now, though, and it’s shown. In the Lobos’ opening series in Surprise, Arizona when they played the likes of defending national champion Oregon State, then-No. 24 Minnesota and Gonzaga, the senior outfielder hit an impressive .429 and even hit a homer against the Beavers in the series opener.
He was awarded the Mountain West Player of the Week in the first week of action for that feat.
Jared is a baseball player—and a good one at that. A standout 2019, especially after the disappointment of last season when it was cut short, can net him, say, a draft position.
Baseball America has Jared listed as the ninth prospect in the Mountain West for the 2019 MLB Draft, five spots below his teammate Justin Slaten UNM’s ace — who also had a great start to the season and was listed at No. 4.
He is admittedly a Pittsburgh Pirate fan, saying his parents were both born and raised there, so he roots for all the city's sports team. But he is also, an avid Lebron James fanatic — so Jared has had multiple allegiances to NBA teams — the Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, (Cavs again) and the Los Angeles Lakers.
"I'm rooting for whatever team Lebron is playing for," he said.
Jared has the charisma and he has the attitude and his numbers at the plate and on the field, have been impressive enough to make a case he could continue playing baseball after college.
But will he make the big leagues?
“Oh, absolutely,” his brother Connor said when asked if he can see Jared playing at the professional level. “I would be shocked if he didn’t.”