Chicago Cubs’ top pick makes early impact with Eugene Emeralds

Originally Posted on Emerald Media via UWIRE

Rarely does someone get to live their dream at the age of 21. But new Eugene Emeralds shortstop Nico Hoerner is one step closer to doing just that.

Hoerner was the No. 24 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft and the first true collegiate shortstop pick.

“It was one of the best moments of my life for sure,” Hoerner said. “To be able to be with my teammates and my best friends and my family as well — it was really special.”

He officially signed for the Chicago Cubs in late June after the completion of his junior year at Stanford. The All-Pac-12 selection hit .345 in 2018 with the Cardinal, including hitting his first two collegiate home runs.

“There’s a little bit of a different experience level coming from a program like Stanford and playing in the Pac-12,” Emeralds manager Steven Lerud said. “You’re gonna see a lot of that from him. He’s a fun player to watch.”

Despite just being called up to Eugene on June 29, Hoerner has had quite an impact for the Ems. As of July 7, Hoerner is batting .438, with four runs scored, a home run, two RBIs and no errors in the field. He also had a clutch, two-out single on July 1, when he knocked in the first run of the ball game and scored the eventual game-winning run.

“He’s kind of the catalyst for a lineup,” Lerud said. “The at-bats he puts together, you see the quality at-bats, and I think that is something that these really young players are gonna learn a lot from.”

With the jump from college to the pros, routines must be established in order to succeed, and Hoerner loves the freedom his manager has given him in that area.

“I appreciate that [Lerud] lets the players go about their business the way they want to,” Hoerner said. “He’s working hard but definitely letting us develop our own routines. It’s a big part of pro ball: understanding your own routines. That will be important moving forward.”

Hoerner is not the only recent collegiate bat called up to the Emeralds. Jake Slaughter (LSU), Tyler Durna (UC San Diego) and Brennon Kaleiwahea (Tennessee Tech) all made their debuts during the last weekend of June.

Slaughter and Hoerner already have experience playing together. The two played for the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox in the Cape Cod League in 2017, using each other’s talent to help elevate their game.

“Any time you have a previous connection with someone entering a new team, it helps that transition,” Hoerner said. “It’s nice to play with him again.”

Given his years in the Pac-12, Hoerner has previous PK Park experience. During his sophomore season, the Cardinal swept the Oregon Ducks in Eugene. Hoerner went 8-for-14 with five runs scored and three RBIs over the three-game series.

“Staying on the West Coast is nice. I got to see my family this weekend (June 29-July 2),” Hoerner said. “Baseball is the same 90 feet and 60 feet, 6 inches. That’s definitely more my comfort place than anything else.”

Follow Maverick Pallack on Twitter @mavpallack

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