By Alexis Brudnicki
Canadian Baseball Network
Since the college season ended for Joey Hawkins, after a Missouri Valley Conference championship and a run on the road to Omaha with the Missouri State Bears that lasted into the super-regional round, he has been waiting for the draft.
On Wednesday, the senior shortstop had to wait just a little bit longer.
Selected in the 40th and final round of Major League Baseball’s first-year player draft by the St. Louis Cardinals – four picks from the end – Hawkins realized that if he was drafted he was likely to go late, but also knew that he wouldn’t be completely out of options if his name didn’t come up either.
“I was just hoping it was going to happen,” the Whitby. Ont., native said. “I think I would have signed a free-agent deal if I hadn’t gotten picked, but then the Cardinals called me at the beginning of the round … The [Cardinals area] scout is a pretty funny dude. He called me and he said, ‘Hey Bubba, are you by a computer?’ And I said, ‘Yeah,’ and he said, ‘Okay, talk to you later.’
“That was it, and then they picked me. That was pretty cool. I’m glad I got to hear my name called.”
While it was “kind of a long last 10 rounds” for Hawkins, he and his family stuck it out in their respective locations and he got to enjoy the moment with the support of his parents Steve and Sheilah, and sisters Natalie and Amy Hawkins.
“My family was all watching,” Hawkins said. “My sisters were teaching their classes and they were watching, because they’re both teachers, and they saw when I got picked. My dad was actually working so he was on the road but he had it on his phone.”
The middle infielder was the final Canadian selected in the draft, one of 30 players from north of the border to earn the honour.
“It is pretty cool,” he said. “It’s always nice when you hear, ‘Whitby, Ontario, Canada’ announced after your name. I’m just really excited about the opportunity and I couldn’t be with a better organization.”
Though Hawkins was pretty certain that one of the 30 major league teams would take a chance on the MVC Defensive Player of the Year, that doesn’t mean that there weren’t some anxious moments along the way.
“Maybe as the rounds were counting down,” Hawkins said. “But you’ve still got to stay confident. There are 40 rounds for a reason …
“Another thing was that since I was drafted out of high school [by the Kansas City Royals in the 42nd round] I thought I would have been a redraft ID. When the Cardinals picked and they go to pick me, [they announced] a draft ID, and I thought uh oh, that’s not good. But I guess it’s because the draft format changed.”
Hawkins was one of just four Bears players to be selected throughout the three-day process, following right-hander Jon Harris, taken in the first round by the Toronto Blue Jays, outfielder Tate Matheny who was picked in the fourth round by the Boston Red Sox, and southpaw Matt Hall, chosen by the Detroit Tigers in the sixth round.
“I’m surprised more guys didn’t get drafted from our team,” Hawkins said. “Usually when you have a good year like we did and you go to super regionals, you’ll see seven or eight guys get drafted and have guys go in the thirties – kind of like Stony Brook did – and in our area they picked a lot of kids from the Big 12 conference ...So a couple of our guys are kind of bummed.”
Matheny, son of Cardinals big-league manager Mike, was especially excited for Hawkins’ selection, as his friend and former roommate with countless St. Louis ties.
“He was pretty pumped,” Hawkins said of Tate Matheny. “He was the first one to call me. He gave me a nice little shout out on Twitter too, so I gained some Cardinals fans followers.”
The 22-year-old middle infielder is looking forward to having an opportunity to keep playing baseball beyond the collegiate ranks, and after four years as a fan favourite in Springfield, Mo. – sharing Hammons Field with the Cardinals Double-A affiliate – he is especially proud to continue with St. Louis.
“It was an exciting senior year of college baseball, that’s for sure,” Hawkins said. “It’s relieving that I get to continue my baseball career, and I’m pretty excited I’m with the Cardinals organization. Being here for the last four years, you’re kind of stuck right in the middle of Cardinal nation. And then knowing the fact that I have a chance to get back to Double-A here in Springfield is also pretty cool.”
For now, the plan is to send Hawkins to one of the short-season affiliates in the organization where he can get his professional career underway. Depending on where he lands, Hawkins is excited about the potential opportunity to share a clubhouse with some of his fellow countrymen.
“I’m either going to State College, Pennsylvania in the New York-Penn League, or Johnson City in the Appalachian League,” Hawkins said. “And that team has Malik Collymore (Mississauga, Ont.) and Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, BC) on it.
“I talked to [fellow former Ontario Blue Jay] Malik [Wednesday] night and I’m excited to get down there. I’m also going to be sharing spring training sites with [Marlins’ 12th overall pick Josh] Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) down in Jupiter so there are some good Canadian connections. It was pretty cool to follow all the Canadians in the draft.”