It’s always a shame to see injuries prevent talented young baseball players from achieving their major league dreams. Fortunately the most determined often find a way to persevere and fight their way through the adversity. The Tampa Bay Rays believe they have such a player in their system in pitcher Jesse Hahn, who is finally embarking on his professional career after a lengthy delay. The right-hander was on top of the world as a high school senior. Pitching for Fitch High School in Groton, Connecticut, he went 5-1 with a state record 0.17 ERA, managing to overshadow high-profile teammate Matt Harvey. While Harvey elected to attend UNC, Hahn committed to Virginia Tech. He struggled during his first two seasons with the Hokies, but rebounded to go 5-2, with a 2.81 ERA as a junior in 2010.
With an arsenal that includes a fastball that reaches the upper 90′s, Hahn was projected to be a possible 1st round pick. Unfortunately, just days before the draft, it was determined he needed Tommy John Surgery. Despite the injury, Tampa Bay loved his potential so much that they took him in the 6th round, determined to help facilitate his rehab. Fast forwarding to 2012, Hahn is finally back on the mound and trying to re-establish himself as a top pitching prospect. Prior to a recent game I was able to catch up with him and find out a little more about his journey through baseball.
Did you have a favorite team or player when you were growing up?
Actually, I grew up a Pirates fan because my dad is from Pittsburgh and my mom is from right outside Pittsburgh in Ohio. So, surprisingly I was a Pirates fan. Roberto Clemente was probably my favorite player growing up.
Well, he was my dad’s favorite player and I read a lot about him. He just had a great story behind him.
What was your draft experience like?
For me it was real hectic because I had the torn ligament right before the draft; like a couple of days before the draft. I was expecting to go a lot higher, but it didn’t work out. I ended up getting surgery, so it was a long process. I’m glad to be out of it now.
It must have been really frustrating to have that happen right before the draft?
Yeah, it was. It was actually more frustrating these past two years just watching baseball and not being able to play. It was tough.
What did the Rays tell you after they drafted you?
They told me they were going to take me to get the surgery and wanted to sign me. They were really nice about it. Hypothetically, they told me I could take as much time as I needed because they just wanted me to be healthy and be able to pitch again.
What have the past couple of years been like in trying to get back to the mound?
It’s been rough. I’ve had bumps in the road. I had times where I actually though I had tore it again. I didn’t feel good, but I guess that is all just part of the process. It’s a lot to get over, to mentally prepare to pitch again. I dealt with a foot surgery too, so that just made things even worse. It’s all in the past now and I am prepared.
Be sure to check out Jesse Hahn Baseball Cards