Let's make a distinction right off the bat.
There are ball players and then there are ball players.
Many ball players play ball from diapers to dentures, from neighborhood streets to slow-pitch softball diamonds with youth league-length base paths and pitching distances.
A small percentage finds college ball, smaller yet pro ball and the big leagues.
They are ball players because they play ball. That's it - pure and simple - from the last player jettisoned off his high school freshman team to some of the highest-paid and best-known athletes in the game.
So, when Corpus Christi Caller-Times Hooks beat writer Greg Rajan muttered under his breath during a game early in the last homestand, "That Goebbert's a ball player," the weight of his statement wrapped itself around our shoulders like a humid August night on the west side of Whataburger Field.
If Ted Williams' dream was to walk down the street and hear passersby say "there goes the greatest hitter who ever lived," it's no less noble for someone to be recognized as a ball player.
But how do you define a ball player? What distinguishes him from ball players? Could it be as simple as attitude and hard work? Could it be that players who land on the self-made side of things are harder workers because they have grateful hearts?
Jacob Goebbert grew up on a farm near Hampshire, Illinois. A Hook since May 6 - promoted from High-A Lancaster - he's not the most heralded prospect in the Houston system. Heck, he's not the most heralded prospect here. He is a good teammate, a considerate man, thoughtful in word and action.
And an everyday player hitting .312.
"Growing up I was never the best athlete. I never had the strongest arm and was never the fastest," Goebbert recalled. "But, I learned through life on the farm that you only get one shot. On the farm, you develop an attitude to give it your all. You learn to try to take advantage of every moment. Do your best every day; don't let yourself be taken out of the game.
"I try to be a good teammate and play hard all the time."
Hooks manager Tom Lawless calls Goebbert blue-collar, a grinder.
Translation: ball player.
Goebbert is unafraid to sacrifice his body at the convergence of wall, ball and warning track. He'll run through a stop sign if the play is in front of him, he has a decent look and the club desperately needs an extra base. He enjoys interacting with fans. He's insightful in postgame interviews, as good as any 23-year-old at breaking down wins and losses for a writer or broadcaster.
And then it's over, ideally.
"My wife (Heather) doesn't like the fact that I can so easily turn my emotions on and off. It's a game with a past, present and future. The only way you're going to limit your success in the future is to dwell on the past. That's something I'm still trying to get better at."
Heather and Jacob met in high school, where he was a three-year varsity letterman in football, basketball and baseball. Coastal Bend football fans will appreciate his experience as a quarterback in the Wing-T, an offensive system born 60 years ago and not foreign to modern-day South Texas programs.
Goebbert also played safety full-time.
"My graduating class was 124, so we were pretty busy."
"In high school, I loved Friday night football," he explained. "One game a week. Just one opportunity. But, baseball's always been my true love. I've always been the best at it."
His parents were always Jacob's biggest supporters. He points to football coach Don Cavanaugh and baseball coach Steve Ream as strong influences along the way. Both men visit Corpus Christi this week to catch up with Jacob and Heather.
But home - where the Goebberts operate an agritainment enterprise with a corn stalk maze, petting zoo, pumpkins and hayrides in the fall, vegetables in summer and annual and perennial flowers in the spring - is where the greatest lessons came.
"There are a lot of things about farming that help in baseball," Goebbert emphasized. "The work is never over. You can stop when the sun goes down and start when it comes back up, but the work's never over.
"I was in a position to see my dad and mom working side-by-side, every day. A farming family is a team. It takes a lot of teamwork to get the job done. It brings a sense of accomplishment, planting in the spring and the fall harvest.
"You also learn to fail. There are the storms. What do you learn? Don't worry about the things you can't control and trust in God for His provision."
That's not just the difference between a ball player and a ball player, but an indication of maturity well beyond the playing field.
"It's important to realize what you have. I was not blessed with the most ability, but try to make the best of my situation. I have no regrets. I wouldn't change anything. It's important to look back and be grateful."
Quite a ball player, that Jacob Goebbert.
For more information on the Goebbert family business, go to pumpkinfarms.com