Few athletes go beyond high school to play their sport collegiately. Even fewer take the next step of going pro. But for Augustana’s Derek Hansen, his childhood dream of becoming an MLB player is becoming a reality.
Hansen, a senior business major, was drafted this past summer by the Oakland A’s of the Major League Baseball Association.
“Growing up, I would always pretend in my backyard that I was so-and-so,” Hansen said. “I can still remember in grade school when they always asked what you want to be when you grow up.
“I would always say a professional baseball player. At least my dream is coming true, but now I just have to really work hard to get to the main goal.”
Once last year’s Augustana baseball season ended, Hansen received multiple calls from different clubs asking what the deal was. The teams were making sure Hansen was serious, and that if called up he would be willing to commit and play.
“Once the first week of June came, I mean those days took so long,” Hansen said. “The first day was the first round, so I knew I wasn’t going to go there. But the second day was what I was hoping for, which was the second through 17th rounds.”
Organizations started to contact Hansen inquiring about his status, negotiating payments and talking logistics. Hansen paced at his home, waiting for calls.
“I was almost wearing out my carpet,” Hansen joked.
The A’s contacted Hansen during the draft and wanted to know if he was serious about playing professional baseball, and Hansen said yes. The A’s had a pick coming up shortly after the phone call, but Hansen was not chosen.
There was then a ten-minute break before the 25th round, and emotions were running high.
“Sure enough, the 25th round came around and the Oakland A’s selected me,” Hansen said. “I couldn’t even explain to you how my phone erupted after that. The feeling you try to prepare yourself for, but it is indescribable.”
Hansen immediately appeared on the Sioux Falls radio to talk about this, but later that night he had time to ponder what had gone on.
“Once I had some alone time, it hit me,” Hansen said. “Then I had a call later that night talking about my contract. They said if I could, I could go June ninth.”
That Friday afternoon, Hansen hopped on a plane to Arizona.
Hansen played rookie ball, where they have mostly all of the new guys from the 2012 draft play for three months. He pitched 21 innings throughout his Arizona stay.
“We were the best team there,” Hansen said. “We ended up losing the championship, 3-1, and that was a heartbreaker.”
Hansen will report in the first week of March for spring training, and the coaches will move him to either low-A, high-A, AA, or AAA. But, if they do not have a team for Hansen, he will stay in Arizona and wait for June. In June, they would play a short season in Vermont, but Hansen doesn’t want that last option to happen.
“My goal is to start in low-A come spring,” Hansen said. “I hope to land in Burlington, Iowa playing for the Burlington Bees.”
Tim Huber, the Augustana College head baseball coach, has been an influential part of Hansen’s rise throughout his collegiate career.
“I just have to praise him (Huber) for giving me a chance at least,” Hansen said. “He recruited me as a pitcher out of high school, and I never pitched in high school, so that was a shocker.
“When he recruited me as a pitcher I was kind of nudging him, saying ‘I can swing a bat too.’ Freshmen year he gave me a chance to hit, and I ran off with it from there. I have to give credit to Huber and Mark Moriatry. They know their baseball really well, and their program is going in the right direction.”
While few athletes have been drafted by a pro team, Hansen wants more. He hopes to actually play for the team and perform to his potential.
Come March, Hansen will have motivation to obtain higher goals.