"Play at the Plate" for Hermosillo

Most high school athletes aspire to continue their careers in college at any level, but Ottawa's Michael Hermosillo had to choose between a division one football scholarship and Major League Baseball

Throughout his senior season at Ottawa, Miguel Hermosillo of Ottawa, an Illinois football signee, was always mindful of the possibility that he could be drafted in the MLB.

Despite that possibility, Hermosillo still went out and earned himself a spot at a Big Ten school as a football player. But on Saturday, he got a call that forced him to make one of the toughest calls of his life.

And even though he wasn't drafted where he originally expected, the opportunity was still one that was difficult to turn down as he was selected in the 28th round by the Los Angeles Angels.

"The biggest thing was that the MLB draft is so much different than any other draft," Hermosillo explained. "Really up until Wednesday night I was set to be a top 10 round pick by them that they would only be taking pitchers in the top 10 rounds. If not a pitcher then a catcher. They took 8 pitchers and a catcher. They very well could have taken me at the 11th pick, and they knew other teams probably weren't going to be coming after me. So they called me and told me that they're still going to pick me no matter what. They said they still considered me a top 10 round talent. They drafted a bunch of college guys but I was the first high school guy they picked. We knew it was going to happen at some point, but we finally got the call around the 28th round."

Originally, Hermosillo expected to get the call he was hoping for on Friday when the first ten rounds of the draft were held, but having to wait one more day ended up working out in the end.

With lots of family and friends around him, he got the long-awaited call, and even though he fell to a later round, the organization stayed loyal to him, providing him with a favorable contract opportunity and compensation.

"I was at my graduation party and it was cool to have everyone there and being able to let them know," he said. "Other teams talked about possibly drafting me early too, but a lot of teams went with college players. Being drafted on Saturday worked out because we were able to get close to the money we expected in the first place. I'm getting the max that they can offer me as well as incentive bonuses as I move up the minor leagues. And I'll also get a monthly check."

The timing didn't make the decision any easier either. Scheduled to move into the University of Illinois on Sunday, Hermosillo had to make a quick decision.

One thing that made the decision easier was the opportunity to return for his education once he leaves the diamond. And if he did return to play football, it would have no impact on the scholarship count.

"You can enroll in classes if you want (while playing), but I'll probably focus on baseball, but no matter what, whenever I'm out of baseball, as long as I start my college education, they'll cover everything from tuition to room and board," he explained. "So basically if I did go back to play football I could be a walk-on and it wouldn't cost the team any scholarships or anything."

The most difficult part of the process for Hermosillo was having to inform the Illinois coaches he'd built strong relationships with throughout the recruiting process. However, he's optimistic about the coaching and instruction he's about to receive as he begins his MLB career.

"They gave their pitch to try to keep me to stay, but I already sort of had my mind made up," he said. "Coach Beckman was the first to give me a chance to be a division one player, and I got really close with Coach Golesh and Coach Bellamy. But I had to make this choice for me long term."

David Stewart, my uncle, will be my agent, and he's an agent for Matt Kemp and Chad Billingsley, and Chris Carter. Him being in my corner and being able to get me to where I'm going to be, I'm confident that he'll surround me with great coaches to get me ready. I'll be out with Ricky Henderson working through the winter and have a chance to work out with some of the best."

When Hermosillo was drafted in the 28th round, many had difficulty in understanding why he would still pursue an MLB career after being drafted in a later round, but Hermosillo explained that his draft position was just a number, and that in a way, he's no different than a guy picked in the 11th round.

"I guess the biggest thing is, I think people see the round and think that I went really late, but a lot of scouts that we talked to considered me a top 10 round pick," Hermosillo said. "Once I slipped out, a lot of teams fell back on picking their needs, but in terms of money, I'm the highest paid guy in rounds 11-40. I basically got what a 10th round pick would get. I won't have exact numbers until Monday, but with the contract I'm getting, and with them covering tuition eventually, it made more sense to take this route."

In just a week, Hermosillo will be boarding a plane to Arizona to begin the next chapter in his life. The schedule will be busy, demanding, and will require some adjustment, but Hermosillo is both eager and excited to get started.

"I leave Sunday to go to Tempe, Arizona for spring training," he said. "From there we stay in hotels more or less and do workouts. We'll practice, eat, practice more, play a game, get another quick workout, then sleep. Their single A team is in Orem, Utah. They might also have a team in the Dominican Republic, but I don't think I'm going to that one. I was the first high school position player they drafted."

One other option Hermosillo looked at was the possibility of playing baseball at Illinois as well. But when looking the big picture of his career, Hermosillo feels that if he is going to strongly pursue the baseball route, he needs to do what it takes and buy in completely to be successful.

"I didn't talk directly to Coach Hartleb, but he thought I could improve my stock," he said. "It really came down to the fact that I had this opportunity now. With this route, I can possibly reach the majors in 4 years, whereas if I went and played college football, I'd be starting that process in 4 years. That and starting now, I can get molded by the coaches the way they want me to.

"I would have been going to Illinois to play football too, so it wasn't guaranteed to play as much baseball. Baseball is my more natural sport, and if I dedicate the time to it, I can be better at it. I want to see how I'll be now that I'm concentrating fully on baseball."

One group who has been especially supportive of his decision has been his fellow signees. Though many of them are disappointed that he won't be joining them at Illinois this summer, they understand the opportunity that he has and want to see him succeed in his pursuit of a MLB career.

"Everyone that I've talked to recruit-wise like Dionte Taylor, James Crawford, Kendrick Foster, Darius Mosely, and Marchie Murdock all congratulated me," he said. "They wanted me there, but they were cool with my decision. I wish them the best. I know technically I was never part of the team, but I'll still feel like they were teammates and they were part of that. I have time off this fall and I'm still going to make as many Illinois games as I can this fall."

And even though he'll be playing on a different field next year with a different team, he'll always remain loyal to Illinois no matter where he ends up.

"All of the seniors at Illinois too really made a huge impression on me and those are guys I really want to come back and support," Hermosillo said. "I think they'll be a lot better than they were last year. I can't say enough about everyone that's been supporting me about my decision. Those are guys I'll always be rooting for."

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