Sierra Vista High senior shortstop Jake Hager was at home in Las Vegas watching the MLB First-Year Draft with family and friends when his phone rang.
On the other line was a representative from the Tampa Bay Rays telling the Nevada Gatorade Player of the Year they were taking him 32nd overall. The draft was at the 30th pick, meaning Hager’s fan base had to wait about 10 minutes for his name to be called.
“It took forever. It took forever,” Hager said of the wait.
Then, commissioner Bug Selig made the official announcement — Hager was property of the Rays. He was the second player from Southern Nevada to picked in the first round, joining Spring Valley High graduate Tyler Anderson, who was taken 20th overall by the Colorado Rockies.
“I was so happy. Seeing my name up there was the greatest feeling in my life,” Hager said. “Every day, I always worked hard for a chance to be in the big leagues. I’ve always wanted to be a big-league shortstop. Here is my chance.”
Hager, who batted .547 with 11 home runs and 57 RBIs this spring for the Mountain Lions, was considered by some as the surprise selection of the first round. He was ranked as the draft’s No. 122 prospect by Baseball America, but didn’t take much stock in the projection because scouts — especially from Tampa — told him an early selection was a possibility.
“The expectation of being a first-round draft pick will carry some burden for him, but he can handle it. He sees himself as a big-league baseball player,” Sierra Vista coach Nate Selby said. “I know it will be a challenge to him, but also an opportunity. He is not afraid of the challenge or the work.
“He showed up every day and worked really hard, and has been a good ballplayer and teammate for us,” Selby continued. “He just brings so much to the table. He’s coachable, has some pretty good skills and has all the intangibles.”
Hager also has a scholarship to Arizona State, meaning he’ll have to decide between signing with the Rays or attending college. College players aren’t eligible for the draft for three years.
Hager, however, sounded pretty set on joining the Rays’ farm club. He calls their star third baseman Evan Longoria his favorite player. “Hopefully I will be playing alongside him soon,” Hager said.
Anderson, a left-handed pitcher, posted an 8-3 record this spring for the University of Oregon with a 2.17 earned run average and school-record 114 strikeouts in 107 2/3 innings. The 2008 Spring Valley High graduate also holds the Oregon record with 285 career strikeouts.
Last year, then-17-year-old Bryce Harper of the College of Southern Nevada was selected No. 1 overall by the Washington Nationals.
“It was a pretty good day for Las Vegas baseball, again,” Selby said.