After nearly four years of Columbia baseball, senior third baseman Jon Eisen’s college career is coming to a close.
A vital part of the Lions’ program ever since arriving in Morningside Heights and starting 38 games as a freshman, the Nashville, Tenn. native has amassed some impressive numbers.
His career batting average is an impressive .328, and his career hits and runs totals—of 185 and 115, respectively—both rank among the top 10 in Light Blue history. On both defense and offense, Eisen is one of Columbia’s most valuable players.
But the numbers fail to capture what Eisen truly means to the team. Notwithstanding all his physical abilities, Eisen’s mental approach to the game is what has really set him apart.
“Work ethic,” head coach Brett Boretti said when asked about what makes Eisen unique. “Always been one of the first guys out here to the field.”
The winner of the team’s 2011 Mr. Hustle award, Eisen’s scrappiness consistently causes trouble for opposing pitchers. Eisen is known for never giving up on an at-bat, and for battling back from pitchers’ counts to somehow end up on base. He has a remarkable capacity to make runs out of disadvantageous situations.
In an early April game at Harvard, Eisen managed to cross the plate in the fifth inning despite the fact that the Lions could not manage a single hit in the frame. Eisen was hit by a pitch, and then advanced to second on a wild pitch. He then took third on a sacrifice fly, and scored on a groundout, giving a stagnant Light Blue offense a much-needed run.
“He’s made himself into a pain in the butt as a hitter,” Boretti said. “He’s our toughest out.”
Despite his pesky ability to get on base and score, Eisen has faced his share of adversity in his time playing at Columbia.
Like many of his teammates, Eisen struggled to play up to expectations in 2011. The Lions entered the year as heavy favorites to win their division, but stumbled to a third place finish. Eisen hit .258 that season, a far cry from the .383 average he posted as a sophomore.
“I hurt my hamstring a bunch of times throughout the year,” Eisen said. “I wasn’t hitting the ball that well.”
But the third baseman did not allow the frustrations of a difficult season to affect his love for the game.
“I think it’s good to have a little adversity ... when you look back, the good moments look so much better,” Eisen said.
And there were plenty of good moments.
In Eisen’s second season at Columbia, the Lions won the Lou Gehrig Division title and made it all the way to the Ivy League Championships.
“When we clinched at Penn the weekend before was probably the most excited I’ve ever been in a baseball game,” Eisen said of the series that led up to the Ivy League Championships.
Not only was the team successful, but Eisen also posted his strongest individual season in 2010. He earned an all-Ivy honorable mention and led the team in runs, hits, and batting average that year.
This season has been another good one for Eisen. The senior is hitting .320 on the season, leads the team in runs scored, and is second in hits. In addition to his statistical contributions, the energy Eisen brings to the clubhouse has been very important for the Light Blue.
His positive attitude is not lost on teammates like senior right-handed pitcher Pat Lowery, who has played with Eisen for four years at Columbia and also played with Eisen the summer after their freshman season.
“He’s just always a guy that’s laughing and smiling, when everybody else is down he’s picking the team up,” Lowery said of his long-time teammate. “That’s just the kind of guy he is.”
Given his love for the game, it’s not surprising that Eisen has found a way to continue playing ball next year. Eisen is leaving for Zurich, Switzerland at the beginning of the summer.
“I’ll play on the main team and then coach the high school team and just kind of get to really enjoy playing baseball and teaching baseball,” Eisen said.
Eisen’s experience playing at Columbia and his optimistic attitude are both likely to help him as he starts a new chapter of his life playing in a nation not known for its baseball prowess.
As for the sport and the University, neither could hope for a more enthusiastic ambassador.