Jacob Hannemann actually went 2 1/2 years without swinging a baseball bat, and in about six months has turned himself into a likely high major league draft pick that will leave BYU three years early.

The way Hannemann's father tells it, Cougar football head coach Bronco Mendenhall was excited to have his potential 2013 starting cornerback with the team last summer, before the 2012 season — and didn't want him thinking much about baseball during that campaign.

The Cougars wrapped up their posteason game in late December. Hannemann helped out with the baseball team's youth camps not long after that.

And, you could say the game came back to him fast.

"It's bittersweet," Hannemann's father, Howard, told the Daily Herald on Wednesday on the eve of the three-day draft process. "Jacob didn't even think he was capable of college baseball until (then-BYU coach) Vance Law recruited him at the end of his junior year."

How natural is he?

The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder didn't play baseball last fall, but new Cougar coach Mike Littlewood — who didn't know a thing about him when taking the job last summer — heard enough to pencil him into the starting lineup months before the season started.

Hannemann kept completely focused on baseball this spring, missing every football practice (only doing some film work with coaches), but had a chance to compete for a starting role.

If only he stayed at BYU. It's not likely, considering the strength of his one college season and the tool he possesses that has various teams very interested.

It's not quite the once-in-a-lifetime story like Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah, who went from Ghana student to BYU football project turned first-round NFL draft pick. But Hannemann has an interesting background, too.

He was actually drafted right after he graduated from Lone Peak by the Kansas City Royals, who offered about $125,000 plus money for future college courses (another $125,000; a fairly standard procedure these days) if he would bypass his two-year LDS mission.

The Royals even thought of having Hannemann — who was bound for Arkansas — being allowed to do his church service in the day and playing ball at night for a minor-league outfit that just happened to be in the area.

"We had to explain that missions didn't quite work like that," Howard Hannemann said, laughing.

It remains to be seen if Kansas City will select him again, though about a month ago Hannemann seemed excited about the idea. He's also visited major league cities like Seattle, Chicago, Milwaukee and Los Angeles (Dodgers) for workouts, the family paying for it themselves to stay aligned with NCAA rules so that he could still play football if he doesn't like the signing-bonus considerations coming his way.

Hannemann is expected to be taken on the second day (Friday) not long after the third round starts. Though there is some mystery in a process that doesn't get analyzed by outsiders (pundits) as thoroughly as the pro football and basketball drafts.

Howard Hannemann said there's a "number" in mind of what it will take his 22-year-old son to leave Provo. It's in the neighborhood of being selected in the second or third round, which can approach a half-million dollars just to sign on the dotted line.

Hannemann can only hope the negotiations go as smoothly as his desire to be a two-sport athlete at BYU. Law, whose contract wasn't renewed after last season, was eager about Hannemann playing two sports (Law also played basketball at BYU on his way to becoming a major leaguer).

Mendenhall was on the same page, though he also technically had more at stake than Littlewood: It was a full-ride football scholarship paying Hannemann's way.

Hannemann impressed Cougar coaches despite struggling as a high school junior because of knee issues.

In early September, Mendenhall insisted that Hannemann not spend time thinking about baseball. Even though Hannemann was on the "scout team" — relegated to pretending to be part of the opposing team to get others ready for games.

Trying to manage his football focus levels,  Hannemann still traveled reguarly with the Cougars to road football games.

That kept him from hitting the batting cages in the opening months after his return to college life. 

And his baseball season may have suffered a little bit for it, at first. Howard points out his boy was hitting about .120 when the Cougars traveled to LSU in the early spring. That was a family embarrassment, considering his mom's family hails from Baton Rouge and there were a lot of BYU fans in the stands that day.

"He was horrible," Howard says, laughing freely.

Dad remains impressed that Littlewood stuck by the young player, moving him from left field to center field (his more natural position) and staying at the top of the batting lineup. The reward was a .344 hitting season as the West Coast Conference's freshman of the year.

He's good enough, that just watching him move around the field makes it obvious he's in a different caliber than most.

The only hiccup was a late-season ejection that actually came at the night's end, for arguing with an umpire after BYU had been defeated at Miller Field. It also cost him two games.

"But that actually raised his stock," Howard said. "Maybe BYU players, or returned missionaries, were thought of as docile. People liked his competitiveness."

Historically, it will be a big leap to reach the sport's highest level.

A Milwaukee scout, based in St. George, informed the Hannemanns that only five returned missionaries have made it to major leagues — and none from Utah.

Hannemann will go forward, trying to conquer the odds with a tendency for triples that's based on his ability to zoom around the bases. His 60-yard dash time (compared to the standard 40 for sports like football) is well above average, as is his pace at getting from first to third base at the crack of a bat.

Littlewood had been talking the last month of BYU's season about how the Cougars needed to enjoy having Hannemann while he was around. The coach, whose son, Marcus, was drafted in the second round in 2010 by Seattle, could see the writing on the wall.

General manager Theo Epstein, the architect of the championship Boston teams who now works for the Chicago Cubs, apparently marveled at Hannemann's fluidness. He could look better going 0-for-5 than some players that go 5-for-5, Howard recounts Epstein saying.

Though it won't be just Hannemann from around here with draft expectations.

While not the state's best crop, about eight players could hear their names called Thursday-Saturday.

Taylor Snyder, a shortstop from Salem Hills — and son of former Cougar and major leaguer, Cory — is rated by Baseball America as the state's best prospect after Hannemann.

Hannemann's BYU teammates — pitcher Adam Miller, outfielder Jaycob Brugman and Adam Law — are also prospects of note, according to the publication.

-- Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd is also the beat writer for the BYU football team, the columnist for the Cougar men’s basketball team and covers a variety of Utah Valley high school athletics. He can be followed on Twitter at @JaredrLloyd.
Read more from  Jared Lloyd here.