Hannemann Forgoes MLB For Mission and BYU

When choosing to serve an LDS mission, young men and women make personal sacrifices that many will never understand. In two days Jacob Hannemann will add his name to those that have chosen to leave much behind in order to serve those they don't even know.

After graduating from Lone Peak High School, Jacob Hannemann looked forward to the summer. He had signed his letter of intent to play football for BYU and was preparing to serve a mission. It was then that things took a twist.

"The Kansas City Royals have been talking to me all summer," Hannemann said. "I actually flew out there during the beginning of the summer with my dad to do a little workout with them. We did a practice in their stadium out there in Kansas City, Missouri, and man it was great! It was a great experience and we got to watch a couple games. Man, it was fun."

After working out for the Royals over a three-day period, Hannemann shot up through the ranks as a draft prospect.

"I did really good and they wanted to draft me in the 12th round but pay me fifth-round money," said Hannemann. "I told them that I wanted to keep my options open, and so they knew that I was 50-50 in whether I was going to choose to play with them or not. They didn't want to waste a draft pick knowing I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, so they were going to just draft me in the 12th round with fifth round money.

"It was a lot of money they were going to offer me. I'm just out of high school and so it can be tough when someone starts talking about offering you a lot of money to play baseball. They were going to offer me $250,000 total [which included] a $125,000 cash signing bonus and a four-year scholarship to any college I chose if they release me, or something like that."

Being drafted would present Hannemann with other opportunities down the road as well.

"They said they keep the players drafted for about three years no matter what," he said. "On top of that they pay you around $1,500 to live off of every month. If you're able to do well and move up to the Triple-A or the majors, then you get a lot more money. They want you to start out young so you can move up to the major league quicker and be there younger if you're able to play at that level. That's the whole idea of why they draft out of high school."

Conflicted, Hannemann felt pulled in two separate directions and his future was now unclear.

"It was really hard," Hannemann said. "I know that I could still have a chance to play in the future if everything works out. It's a great opportunity. But what I'm saying is I feel I need to go serve a mission first before any of those opportunities come around. It was tough because I felt like I was being pulled in both directions, so I really wanted an answer from Heavenly Father on what I should do. There was a time when I thought that the opportunity for me to play for Kansas City was a blessing for me and that's what I should do. I was thinking that maybe he was giving me this opportunity and this is what I was supposed to do.

"I was planning on serving a mission but the [Royals] didn't want me to go on my mission," Hannemann continued. "They were trying to get me to not go out and wanted me to start right away. I was looking at this opportunity and thinking this was a great chance for me to play sports at the highest level. At the same time I also knew that serving a mission was the right thing to do, so I struggled with what lay before me and needed to find out was best for me. I think maybe that playing baseball is something I can do in my future, but just not right now. "

The decision Hannemann faced began to take its toll on him.

"There was around three weeks this summer where I felt a lot of pressure and stress. I was tired all the time and just not myself."

But through prayer, he was able to make his decision.

"I felt really good about serving a mission," he said. "I called them up a Monday before the draft and let them know not to draft me. I told them that I was 100 percent sure now I was going to go on my mission … After that I felt peaceful and happy and relaxed. It was a change of night and day in how I felt."

However, that didn't mark the end of Hannemann's interaction with the Royals.

"The Kansas City Royals called me back and said they were still going to draft me, but in the 48th round," said Hannemann. "They still ended up drafting me even though I told them I was leaving to serve my mission in Little Rock, Arkansas. They told me that I could start right up with them when I come back. I don't know if it's just a five-day contract type of thing to see if I can still play after serving for two years or what, but when I come back I really want to go to play football at BYU first. That's what I told them and that's what I'm going to do when I come back off my mission."

Hannemann will sacrifice much to serve two years as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as attend BYU directly after. It's something that not everyone can understand, the Kansas City Royals included.

"They were actually pretty good about it," Hannemann said. "They said, 'We respect you and your decision, but we don't really understand.' They just couldn't understand why this decision was an important one for me. They don't get the whole mission thing and that's what they said. That's kind of how we ended things. The world doesn't really understand.

"I plan on coming home and playing football for BYU. Coming off my mission, I think the coaches want me to redshirt, so I'll do that my first year. I also think I have a starting spot at center field for the baseball team as well. All of my friends and family were excited to know that I'll be playing football over there at BYU."

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