Baseball: BYU vs. Utah

BYU's Jacob Hannemann catches a fly ball by Utah's Trey Nielsen during the NCAA college baseball game between the University of Utah and Brigham Young University at Larry H. Miller Field in Provo on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. SPENSER HEAPS/Daily Herald

Don't expect to see Jacob Hannemann in a BYU football uniform next fall.

What could have been a tougher decision seems to now be a moot point, based on where the BYU freshman was taken in Friday's second day of the major league draft: 75th overall, the second pick of the third round. That's presumably going to be mean a big signing bonus that will remove any thoughts of delaying a pro career for the sake of being a two-sport college athlete.

"We're stoked," said Howard Hannemann, an Alpine resident and father of the 22-year-old Lone Peak graduate. "We never dreamed he would go this high."

The player picked in Hannemann's spot last year, according to Baseball America, signed for nearly a half-million dollar signing bonus. It stands to reason that Hannemann will make more, and not just because of inflation. The Cougar centerfielder, who hit .344 with five home runs and 29 RBI on his way to a variety of accolades, was highly sought after by the Cubs organization.

General manager Theo Epstein and his right-hand associate attended the first-ever West Coast Conference tournament recently in Stockton, Calif. Chicago also selected Hannemann's rival, San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant, with the No. 2 overall pick Thursday.

Hannemann stood to be a contributor in the defensive backfield for the Cougars in the fall. That's despite not participating in a single on-field workout in spring sessions in March, as he focused solely on baseball. He was hitting about .120 early in the season, following more than two years away from the sport because of an LDS mission to Arkansas then a semester with the football scout team.

Yet he wound up being named the 2013 WCC Freshman of the Year and earned 2013 Louisville Slugger Freshmen All-American honors in his first college season.

Hannemann wasn't always sure he'd even have a shot to play in college, but now-former BYU coach Vance Law offered a scholarship at the end of his junior year. He was offered a football scholarship during his senior season, and the two BYU head coaches courting him were eager to let him be a two-sport athlete for the sake of getting him to Provo (Law played basketball at BYU, as well, before working his way into a major leaguer).

Hannemann's been drafted before. The Kansas City Royals took him in the 48th round in 2010, but he was upfront about his desires to perform church service. Kansas City brass tried to entice him with money (a package of about $250,000, which basically amounted to him being considered a 10th-round pick) and even a bizarre option to be assigned to the franchise's low-level team in Arkansas where he could proselytize during the day and play ball at night.

The family explained to the organization that wasn't really an option.

Now, it looks like returning to BYU isn't an option. LaVell Edwards Stadium is no longer the goal; Wrigley Field is.

Sure, BYU would have loved to have him back. First-year baseball coach Mike Littlewood said he's been willing to abide with the football plan for Hannemann (he is, after all, on a football scholarship).

Littlewood didn't know much about Hannemann, but did recall seeing him play one time at Desert Hills High — back in the player's senior year. It was about four innings, but Hannemann unleashed a triple and an impressive outfield catch that tattooed the memory of someone who was then the coach of Dixie State College.

"You just look at his athletic ability," said Littlewood, whose son (Marcus) was a second-round draft pick out of a St. George high school a few years ago and is currently in the minor leagues. "It goes both ways. We want those kind of guys in the program as long as we can have them. But at the same time, you're keeping your fingers crossed for them to get these opportunities."

It's obvious the Cubs really liked Hannemann. Littlewood said teams were generally more excited about Hannemann as a little bit later pick. But all it takes, as the saying goes, is for one team to like the player. Chicago and Epstein must believe that he can be groomed into someone like Johnny Damon or Jacoby Ellsbury — similarly skilled and sized major leaguers for Boston who were major cogs in the Red Sox championship dynasty that Epstein cultivated.

Littlewood said baseball IQ is going to be what needs the most polishing of his pupil. The coach recalls one defensive play at LSU early in the season. Hannemann picked a poor time to dive for a fly ball. The risky play resulted in a triple, rather than a safe move that would have afforded the Tigers just a single.

"He just needs more games under his belt," Littlewood said, noting that Hannemann's ability to accept criticism and make quick changes is strong. "He doesn't have enough to understand the whole game."

He should start attaining more soon. It stands to reason that he could get signed fast, and get placed with a rookie league team.

That's a little bit of a bummer for the football program, but several Cougar representatives voiced their pleasure for him on Twitter not long after he was drafted.

-- 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.
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