Hannemanns Suddenly Cubs Fans

Jacob Hannemann credits his island ties for his baseball success | Hannemann family photo

Jacob Hannemann credits his island ties for his baseball success | Hannemann family photo

This is a remarkable sports tale, a story of pluck, devotion and love for the game. It’s a tale that’s all the sweeter because it’s about a relative of mine, Jacob Hannemann, who was just drafted in the third round by the Chicago Cubs baseball team, the 75th player taken overall. He’s expected to sign a $1 million bonus with the Cubs.

Two other Hawaii players were taken in early rounds: Kean Wong, a second baseman from Waiakea High School, was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays, and shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who played for Mid-Pacific Institute, was taken by the Texas Rangers.

Jacob is one of five sons of my first cousin Howard and wife Mindy, who in turn is the son of family patriarch, Uncle David and Aunty Carolyn Hannemann of Laie. Like Howard, Jacob was born on Oahu at Kahuku Hospital, and the family lived first in Kaneohe and then in Ewa Beach.

Jacob’s love for baseball was nurtured in childhood in Hawaii when he began playing T-ball in Ewa Beach at the age of 4 and progressed to youth baseball until he was 8 years old, when the family moved to Utah. Had the Hannemanns remained in Hawaii, there’s a chance that Jacob would have continued to hone his skills and perhaps have played for the Ewa Beach Little League team that won the World Series title in 2005. After all, one of his teammates as a keiki was Michael Memea, who hit the homer that won the championship game and brought the crown home to Hawaii. (Oh, do I remember the celebratory parades and honors that we showered upon the Ewa Beach and Waipio teams for winning the Little League World Series titles!)

Jacob attended Lone Peak High School in Utah, where he was an exceptional athlete. Despite his distance from Hawaii, Jacob’s local ties remained strong. In fact, Jacob and dad Howard credit local baseball coach Duane Eldredge, of the famed Eldredge sports clan, with giving him his first exposure to professional baseball scouts at a tournament in Arizona. Coach Eldredge selected Jacob to play for one of his two teams from Hawaii, as a means of exposing them to a wider audience. (It’s similar to Team Aloha, which I formed to give top female prep basketball players an opportunity to play in front of college coaches attending NCAA-sanctioned hoops tournaments on the Mainland.)

That led to Jacob being courted in 2010 by the Kansas City Royals as a senior. He told the Royals that his priority was to fulfill his commitment for a Latter-day Saints church mission. The Royals drafted him anyway, in the hope that his assignment to Little Rock, Ark., would coincide with the team’s ownership of a farm club in that same city. The hope was that Jacob would complete his missionary duties by day and play ball at night, but that was against church policy.

Upon completion of his mission, he returned to Utah and was admitted to Brigham Young University in 2012. He resumed his baseball and also fine-tuned his skills as a defensive back in preparation to join the Brigham Young University football team for the 2013 season.

Jacob was a standout as a freshman centerfielder this season for BYU, batting .344. He was West Coast Conference freshman of the year, a first-team selection and Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American. He worked out for several Major League teams before being drafted by the Cubs. Had he decided to return to BYU, he intended to be a dual-sport athlete for the Cougars – in baseball and football.

Jacob’s sports hero is Maui-born Shane Victorino, who’s now playing for the Boston Red Sox. Jacob’s prowess in centerfield has earned him the nickname of “Flyin’ Hawaiian,” like Victorino, and he hopes to emulate him as a professional.

Jacob’s emergence as a professional athlete is all the more amazing because he gave up organized baseball for two-and-a-half years while on his mission and practicing football, but returned to the game better than ever. Uncle David and his family are very blessed indeed! I guess the whole Hannemann clan has now become instant Cubbies – I haven’t rooted for Chicago since the glory days of Ron Santo and Ferguson Jenkins. mufi@mufihannemann.com