PHOTO PROVIDED BY BALL STATE ATHLETICS
Ball State alumnus Jeremy Hazelbaker off to hot start in MLB
In the last week, St. Louis Cardinals rookie outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker has made his first Major League start, hit his first career home run and stole his first career base.
The Muncie native and Wapahani High School graduate is 10-19 at the plate so far this year with five runs scored, five RBIs, two doubles, a triple, two home runs and two stolen bases. He was originally placed on the Opening Day Roster after a pair of injuries to other players, but has started four of St. Louis' seven games.
Ball State head coach Rich Maloney said Hazelbaker's accomplishment was "a big moment" for the program.
.526 average (10-19)
1.053 slugging percentage
2 home runs
2 stolen bases
"It's pretty special," he said. "He's worked really hard for it; he stayed the course; and, he's getting this opportunity, so I'm really, really happy for him."
In 2009, Hazelbaker tied the single-season Ball State record with eight triples and broke the records for runs scored, walks and on-base percentage. He was then drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the fourth round of the MLB draft.
Hazelbaker's start comes on the heels of hitting .313 with 13 home runs and 24 stolen bases across AA and AAA last season. He also hit .321 with Caribes of the Venezuelan Winter League with three home runs and 11 stolen bases in 45 games.
As a non-roster invitee to St. Louis' spring training camp, he led the Cardinals with three home runs, was second on the roster with four steals and hit .304 with a .373 OBP and a .543 slugging percentage.
Maloney said successful alumni like Hazelbaker and program's seven first-round draft picks are a "big selling point" with recruits.
"That's one of the goals when we recruit kids," he said. "We wanna recruit kids who have that chance if they develop to take their game to another level. Certainly [Hazelbaker], with that accomplishment, sits really well for Ball State baseball."
Junior right-handed pitcher and left fielder Zach Plesac said Hazelbaker has helped prove that reaching the MLB is an achievable goal for some Ball State athletes.
"It's always great when somebody that has previously played in your program has made it to the big leagues and made it to the dream where I want to be at," he said. "It almost gives me hope in the sense to where I know it can happen [for me]."