Born: January 7, 1979
Town: Flemington, New Jersey
John Joseph Cust II was born January 7, 1979 in Flemington. Baseball runs in the family. His father was a star outfielder for Seton Hall and two brothers, Kevin and Mike, both played minor-league ball. The Cust boys learned the game from their father, an accountant by trade. Jack started showing a talent for hitting a baseball around the age of 9. By the time he graduated from Immaculata High School he was slugging All-State first baseman.
Jack was the 30th pick in the 1997 MLB draft, taken by the Arizona Diamondbacks. As he moved through their minor-league system, he developed a reputation as an all-or-nothing slugger. He hit a lot of homers and struck out a lot. In 1999, he hit 32 homers for Class-A High Desert and was named the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year.
Jack made his big league debut at the tail-end of the 2001 season—a season that saw the D-Backs in the World Series. With no DH in the National League, Jack was a man without a position in his early 20s. He came to be regarded as a "Quadruple-A" player—great at AAA but not quite ready for the big time.
Finally, in the spring of 2007, he found a home with the Oakland A’s. At age 28, Jack made up for lost time with 6 home runs in his first 7 games. He hit his first major league grand slam in August. Jack ended up leading the A’s with 26 homers, and walked 21% of the time he came to bat—the top mark in the majors. He also led the AL in strikeouts. His good year was tempered that winter when his name emerged in the Mitchell Report as having tested positive for a banned substance. Jack denied the allegation.
In 2008, Jack began the year with a starting job for the first time in his big-league career. He served as the A’s DH and played a little right field. Jack batted just .231 and struck out a league-high 197 times. However, he clubbed 33 homers, drove in 77 runs and led the AL with 111 walks. He also had 111 hits, making him the answer to an interesting trivia question.
Jack spent the next two years in Oakland, signing his first big contract at $2 million-plus per season. His production tailed off, and he spent part of 2010 in the minors. He was granted free agency after the campaign and signed with the Seattle Mariners for 2011. With his average at .213 and only 3 homers, the M’s released Jack in August.
Unlike most ballplayers nearing the end of their playing days, Jack has a family business waiting for him anytime he wants. His dad owns and operate sone of the largest youth baseball facilities on the east coast, the Jack Cust Baseball Academy. In 1997, Jack's father bought some warehouse property and over the course of 12 years built it into a 700,000-plus square foot complex with 13 turf fields, batting cages, a video review center, and a dome to cover the fields in the winter. Jack Sr. trains players aged 5-18 and coaches traveling teams called the Diamond Jacks.