Supporting by staying apart: MLB prospect’s wife stays at BYU to pursue degree

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Shayli Hannemann poses with her husband, Jacob in ________. Shayli and Jacob live apart during the school year while Shayli pursues a degree at BYU and Jacob chases his dreams of playing Major League Baseball. (Photo courtesy Shayli Hannemann)
Shayli Hannemann poses with her husband, Jacob, in Daytona, Florida. Shayli and Jacob live apart during the school year while Shayli pursues a degree at BYU and Jacob chases his dreams of playing Major League Baseball. (Courtesy Shayli Hannemann)

Every other weekend, Shayli Hannemann catches a flight to Arizona. The one-hour plane rides aren’t to see family or to enjoy the balmy weather but to see her husband, Jacob, who was drafted by the Chicago Cubs baseball team last June.

Last month marked Jacob and Shayli Hannemann’s one-year wedding anniversary. While most married BYU students spend the first year of their marriage enrolled in classes in Provo, the Hannemanns spent the first year of their married life bouncing between Utah, Arizona, Illinois and Florida, depending on what team Jacob Hanemann was playing for. Shayli Hannemann, a junior from Orem studying business, lives in Provo while her husband plays baseball in Mesa, Arizona.

While Jacob Hannemann’s whereabouts are dictated by his contract with the Cubs, the couple and their close friends and family claim that their relationship isn’t all about baseball, and that’s what makes it work.

“It’s not all about him,” explained Shayli Hannemann between classes last week. “I have a goal to do school, and that’s my part of our relationship.”

She continued, explaining that if she were to sit around and just focus on what her husband was doing, it would be “the worst marriage.” Instead, she focuses on her goal of finishing school at BYU, even though it means being apart from Jacob. Her marriage, Shayli Hannemann said, has been her greatest adventure.

Her track record proves that academics have always been a priority. As a high school student, Shayli Hannemann took Advanced Placement classes and participated in the National Honors Society Council. Upon acceptance to BYU, she told herself marriage wasn’t an option. Her aspiration to become a math teacher was her first priority. Thanks to skills she developed before meeting Jacob Hannemann, it was easy to “slide” into the lifestyle they now share, she said.

“She’s very independent,” Jacob Hannemann said. “She does really well when I’m gone; she stays busy.”

Howard Hannemann, Jacob’s father, said the key to the couple’s happiness lies in their commitment to each other’s success. Just as much as Shayli Hannemann supports her husband playing baseball, Jacob Hannemann supports her finishing school.

“(Their defining characteristic is) selflessness. They look after the other person first,” Howard Hannemann said.

At times, Shayli Hannemann has thought about bagging school to be closer to her husband, said her longtime best friend, Caroline Melville.

“She just couldn’t feel good about herself if she didn’t finish her goal of graduating from college, specifically from BYU,” said Melvillle, a senior from Orem studying exercise science.

“Yes, my goal is school,” Shayli Hannemann said. “But my goal is also to do whatever I have to do to help (Jacob) make it, and his goal is to help me make it, even though it’s hard that we’re apart.”

“They just deal with a whole different set of challenges than most newlywed couples do,” Melville continued. “Their challenges are in some ways a lot harder.”

After a surprise proposal a week after Jacob Hannemann was drafted in June of 2013, the couple spent their entire engagement apart. Engagement pictures and suit fittings were happened when Shayli Hannemann had time to drive to Idaho, where Jacob Hannemann was playing at the time.

Former BYU baseball player Jacob Hannemann winds up to bat spring 2013. Hannemann spent one season at BYU before he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs. (Photo courtesy Shayli Hannemann)
Former BYU baseball player Jacob Hannemann winds up to bat spring 2013. Hannemann spent one season at BYU before he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs. (Courtesy Shayli Hannemann)

Two days after their wedding, Jacob Hannemann was off again, this time with his wife, to Arizona for an off-season training camp. Howard Hannemann said moving away and relying exclusively on each other is one of the many reasons the couple can now deal with the strains of being apart.

“They had to be on their own and far away from us and (Shayli’s) parents,” Howard Hannemann said. “They had to live together alone and rely on each other so quickly. That was pretty neat.”

Melville, who married in April of this year, said Shayli Hannemann’s supportiveness and optimism have shown through in the Hannemanns’ marriage. She said there was no way she could be as supportive as Shayli Hannemann, especially if it meant not seeing her husband for months at a time. Whenever Melville is frustrated with her own husband, Shayli Hannemann is the first to remind her how lucky she is. Melville recalled a certain instance in which Shayli Hannemann was explaining living situations for the upcoming school year to her. As Melville began to apologize and console her, Shayli Hannemann was already looking at the positive side.

“She has stayed so positive even when she has reason to be bummed out,” Melville said, “I think that positivity really helps Jacob be able to focus and play his best. He’s lucky to have her.”

Jacob and Shayli Hannemann spent the holiday season together at Shayli’s parents’ home in Orem. In January, the couple experienced their first semester apart as Jacob returned to Arizona for spring training and camps, and Shayli stayed in Provo for school. The couple reunited over the summer, living in Illinois and Florida, but is now apart again. If Shayli Hannemann graduates on time, this will be a repeating pattern for another two years.

Does she resent the situation? Never.

“I’ve never, ever resented that, and a lot of that has to do with him being so supportive of what I do as well. People think it’s all about him, but it’s really not. It’s been an adventure,” she said.

“Everyone has those bad days,” Jacob Hannemann agreed. “But I like to keep the big picture in mind. This is a sport that I love and chose, and this is just a thing that you go through — trials and hard times. Being married to Shayli is a lot better than anything I expected married life to be like.”

BYU student Shayli Hannemann married her sweetheart, Jacob, last September. Jacob popped the question a week after he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs. (Photo courtesy Shayli Hannemann)
BYU student Shayli Hannemann married her sweetheart, Jacob Hannemann, last September. Jacob Hannemann popped the question a week after he was drafted by the Chicago Cubs. (Courtesy Shayli Hannemann)

Jacob Hannemann landed a five-year contract with the Chicago Cubs and is expected to break into the Major Leagues as soon as 2015. Whatever happens, Shayli Hannemann is ready to support him.

“Whether it does or doesn’t work out, I can work,” she said. “But for now the goal is to continue to support him and then work if I need to.”

 

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