Jacob Hannemann was looking forward to living the dream as a two-sport athlete at BYU. A speedy, redshirt freshman cornerback with promise, he had his sights set on BYU football stardom as well as a central role on the baseball diamond as BYU’s centerfielder and leadoff man. After a stellar freshman season on the baseball diamond, however, Hannemann’s plans have changed.
“My ideal situation would be to get drafted high and start my career, my baseball life, this year,” Hannemann said. “That is what is presented at the table, an opportunity, and if that can become a reality I’ll take it.”
On June 7, opportunity knocked as Hannemann was drafted 75th overall by the Chicago Cubs, forcing him to leave his dream of playing college football behind.
“I love the football program. I’m grateful for what they’ve done for me,” Hannemann said. “I came here expecting to play both sports all four years. I didn’t think I had the potential to be a pro baseball player. When I see that potential now, I want to take advantage of that, and I don’t want the opportunity to pass by.”
Major League Baseball scouts frequented Cougar baseball games this season to get a glimpse of Hannemann’s success as he quickly became one of the team’s leaders. Hannemann helped the Cougars finish third in the West Coast Conference after many picked BYU to finish near the bottom of the conference this season.
“I feel like we exceeded our expectations for the season,” Hannemann said. “It started out rough, but we had a really good season. It was a little disappointing because we knew how good we were and could be, and we got to that potential in some games and other games we let slip away. That’s kind of how baseball is. We wish we would have had a shot in the NCAA tournament.”
Hannemann finished the season batting .344 with 53 runs scored in 51 games. He led the team in doubles (16), triples (7) and runs (53). He was the team’s second-leading hitter with 76 hits and was also second on the team in batting average (.344), on-base percentage (.415), slugging percentage (.553), home runs (5) and stolen bases (14).
Hannemann’s drive and talent have come from years of experience, as well as a genuine love for the game. Like many baseball players, he started playing at a young age. He would emulate center fielders like Ken Griffey, Jr. and Kenny Lofton, and he enjoyed the atmosphere and the basics of baseball.
“I always played baseball to have fun,” Hannemann said. “The competitive nature of it is really fun for me. I love competing. The basic things like hitting and catching, I love doing those things.”
In a game notorious for superstition, Hannemann has found success in ditching the rituals and symbols and relying on work ethic to hone his abilities.
“If something is going wrong, I just like to fix it,” Hannemann said.
That work ethic helped Hannemann fulfill his preseason goal of starting in centerfield.
“My expectations coming into it were to start,” Hannemann said. “There are a lot of good players on our team, and I wanted to fight for a starting spot. I was in left field the first few weeks of the year and then I moved over to center, so I got that goal.”
Little did Hannemann know that he would far exceed his preseason goals. Hannemann’s work ethic earned him numerous awards, including All-WCC First Team, All-WCC Freshman Team and WCC Freshman of the Year.
“When I found out, I was pretty surprised,” Hannemann said. “I knew I had a good year. I was grateful for it, grateful for the people that helped me out. We had a good team, and that makes it easier to play well.”
Hannemann’s success has given him plenty to look forward to in the coming weeks as he starts his career as a pro baseball player.
“I think I had a good year and have a lot of ceiling left. And to give up football for baseball, I think I could reach my potential,” Hannemann said. “There’s always room for improvement, and I love working and getting things perfected. I feel like I’ll be a good baseball player. I have the drive and motivation to do that, and I really want to play. If another team out there recognizes that, I’ll take that and give them all I have.”