Hancock: a Cougar from the start

Senior’s grandfather covered WSU when he was growing up



Then-junior outfielder JJ Hancock leads off second base against Arizona on April 9 at Bailey-Brayton Field.

RYAN MOSHER, Evergreen reporter

Senior right-fielder JJ Hancock has ties to Pullman and WSU that extend beyond the school he attends and the team he plays for.

Hancock grew up as a fan of the Cougars thanks to his grandfather. Hec Hancock, a former sports editor who frequently covered WSU for the Tri-City Herald. He attended games with Hec from a young age, long before he picked up a bat.

“I learned the fight song before I learned the alphabet,” Hancock said.

The sport management major started all 51 games he appeared in last season, and finished the season hitting .298 with 23 RBI. Hancock said he wants to focus on his hitting this year, and he has set goals for himself to improve every day and to help the team be more successful.

Hitting coach Jim Horner said Hancock makes his job easy, describing him as a great defender and speedy through the bases. Even when the harsh Pullman winds blow, it doesn’t stop him or his ability to throw out runners, Horner said.

“He can really, really defend,” he added. “He’s probably … the best defender we have in the Pac-12 in right field,” Horner said, “It’s a lot of fun [coaching JJ]. He’s just a really good kid, he’s got a good personality.”

Horner said that sometimes when he is coaching Hancock, he has to “loosen him up,” because he can be too hard on himself. Hancock agreed with Horner, saying he has to relax and not stress himself out.

Hancock said Head Coach Marty Lees has made a huge difference for the team since his first season at the helm in 2016.

“He’s changed our mindset,” Hancock said. “When I first came in we were at the bottom of the [Pac-12], and we kind of accepted it, but Marty does not accept stuff like that. He’s pushed us … to get better and better each day.”

Hancock said it can be difficult to find time to unwind during the season. But when he does, he uses it wisely.

“I tend to just do nothing,” Hancock said. “I overthink things on the baseball field, so when I get away from the baseball field I want to be relaxed. What I usually do is watch more baseball.”

In high school, Hancock was a member of the Kansas City Royals Area Code team, a summer league in Long Beach, California.

“It was kind of a big deal … I got the invite, and came in as a scrub, came in with no batting gloves,” Hancock said. “I ended up making it, we ended up flying down to Long Beach and it was just the coolest thing ever.”

The Kennewick native starting playing baseball at a young age, encouraged by his father, who also played as kid. Hancock said he wants to return home and coach at his high school after he earns his degree. Hancock said he plays baseball for the sport’s unique qualities.

“I started really enjoying more of behind-the-scenes kind of things,” Hancock said. “The smells, the sights. It’s just a special feeling you feel around baseball.”