Jonathan Hughes’ dream is now a reality: he’s going to be a professional baseball player.
After being selected by the Baltimore Orioles with the 68th overall pick in the second round of the MLB draft Monday, Hughes will forego his scholarship opportunity to pitch at Georgia Tech.
The 6-foot-2, 184-pound Hughes said the decision to sign was simple. He said the paperwork will be signed later this week, before he reports Monday to play rookie-league ball with Sarasota (Fla.) in the Gulf Coast League.
“When I saw my name come across the screen on TV, I just said ‘Wow,’” said Hughes, who recorded 69 strikeouts and only walked four during his senior season with Flowery Branch High.
Hughes didn’t have an elaborate draft-day party. It was just a time for family, including his parents Danny and Deanna, to watch nervously to see when Jonathan’s name would be called.
Hughes was taken much earlier than projected by most pre-draft rankings. He was slotted No. 188 on MLB.com’s 2015 Prospect Watch.
Despite the complete uncertainty of the draft, Jonathan and Danny had a good feeling that it was going to be the Baltimore Orioles who took him, after a pre-draft workout at Camden Yards on June 1 in Baltimore. It was there where he threw approximately 20-25 pitches, according to his father, in front of many in the organization’s brass. According to his father, six players were invited to Baltimore for in-person workouts. His son, a right-hander, was the only pitcher.
Once it was over, Danny sent an emotional text message to his wife saying how he felt at the moment.
“I said ‘proud doesn’t even come close to saying how I feel right now,’” Danny said of his message.
Hughes had the freedom to throw during the tryout as long as he needed. He said taking to the pristine mound of Camden Yards was like “being handed a piece of gold.”
Once Jonathan was done throwing, his father said many of the team executives came over to compliment him on his son’s character. That gave them both a good feeling about their interest, even though no promises were made on the day of the tryout, just eight days prior to being picked.
Hughes said he also did pre-draft workouts with the Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins and Houston Astros.
Once the draft started Monday, the Hughes family awaited anxiously, not knowing when Jonathan would be picked or which team would take him. Often, players are drafted by a team whom they didn’t even have a thorough tryout. In 2014, White County grad Spencer Adams was picked in the second round by the Chicago White Sox, even though he didn’t have contact with the organization before the draft.
Hughes got a call in the second round between the 50th and 52nd pick, from Baltimore Orioles area scout Arthur McConnehead, wanting to know if he would be ready to sign if the team drafted him at No. 68. Jonathan told the scout yes. Hughes said he received another call around the No. 63 pick from Baltimore, saying it had officially sent in his name as their pick at No. 68.
Then it happened. Hughes was picked, like Baltimore promised, with the 68th pick. Flowery Branch High baseball coach Scott Myers was in the middle of a summer-league doubleheader when he got the news his star pitcher was drafted very early.
“That’s a life-changing moment for Jonathan,” said Myers. “I hope he does great things at the next level.”
With such a high slot in the draft, Hughes will also receive a sizable contract. According to Myers, the 68th player picked last season signed for $900,000. Hughes will not know the exact figures of his deal until the contract is in order.
Going at No. 68 in the MLB draft, Hughes is one of the highest pro picks to ever come out of Hall County. In 2014, Gainesville High grad Michael Gettys, now an outfielder in the minors, went in the second round to the San Diego Padres.
Hughes is the first player from Flowery Branch drafted since right-handed pitcher Brad Keller was taken in the eighth round two years ago by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Keller is now pitching for the Single-A Kane County Cougars in the Diamondbacks organization.
On the second day of the 2015 draft, North Forsyth High graduate Dakota Chalmers, a right-handed pitcher, was selected in the third round (97th overall) by the Oakland Athletics. Chalmers played his first three years of high school at Lakeview Academy.
Chalmers went 4-4 in 2015 with a 1.50 ERA and 82 strikeouts.
Chalmers will now have the option to either sign with the Athletics or pitch for the University of Georgia.