It took longer than some expected, but the end result was worth the wait for Iowa pitcher Blake Hickman.
The Chicago native now has a chance to be a part of his favorite team after the Chicago White Sox selected Hickman in the seventh round of the 2015 Major League Baseball’s First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday. Hickman was the 202nd player selected overall in the draft, which is lower than some draft analysts had expected.
Hickman could return to Iowa for his senior season, but he announced on Twitter shortly after being selected that he was excited to get started with the White Sox.
"Thank you White Sox never been so excited to get started. Thank you for giving me this opportunity," Hickman posted on his Twitter account.
According to Baseball America, the signing bonus slot value for that selection is $213,400. Teams are free to allocate money from other slot picks, meaning the White Sox could sign Hickman to a larger bonus if they choose to.
Hickman grew up on the south side of Chicago and came to the University of Iowa to play catcher. He didn’t become a full-time starting pitcher until this spring.
Hickman’s rise as a pitcher was instrumental in Iowa’s rise as a team under second-year coach Rick Heller. The hard-throwing right-hander compiled a 9-2 record with a 2.99 ERA in 84 1/3 innings, earning first-team all-Big Ten accolades while leading Iowa to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1990. Hickman went 7-0 with a 2.45 ERA in eight Big Ten regular-season starts.
However, he struggled in the postseason and that might have hurt his stock for the draft.
Major league scouts started to take notice of the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Hickman after he performed well at the Cape Cod Summer Baseball League a year ago. His fastball has been clocked at 97 miles per hour.
Hickman talked candidly in April about not letting the draft become a distraction during the season.
“For guys who say they don’t think about the draft, there is no way,” Hickman said. “I haven’t had a day where I haven’t thought about it. I try not to talk about it. I try to stay focused on the team.
This marks the second time that Hickman has been selected in the draft by one of Chicago’s two major league teams. The Chicago Cubs selected Hickman in the 20th round of the 2012 draft shortly after he had graduated from Simeon High School in Chicago.
Hickman decided that he wasn’t ready to play professional baseball directly out of high school, so he chose to attend the University of Iowa instead. He was recruited to Iowa by former coach Jack Dahm.