Dick Harmon: Former professional breaks down BYU freshman Jacob Hannemann's decision to turn pro

Published: Friday, June 7 2013 6:10 p.m. MDT

BYU freshman Jacob Hannemann will soon be a very wealthy young man.

After the Chicago Cubs drafted him in the third round of the Major League Baseball draft Friday, Hannemann confirmed he would turn pro and forgo returning to play college baseball. The soon-to-be pro also won't play football for BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall, who gave the multi-sport star a football scholarship out of Lone Peak High and hoped the LDS returned missionary would help shore up the Cougars' secondary this fall.

Instead, Hannemann will be off pursuing dreams of becoming a Chicago Cub.

Extremely talented, the freshman All-American could earn a signing bonus of more than $700,000. It opens the door for him to be called up to the the majors someday, a chance of a lifetime. He is a lucky man. He had a lot of choices few young athletes ever have in a lifetime of athletics.

Here's a dissection of Hanneman's decision by someone who did return to college — multiple times — after getting drafted.

That person is Mitch Jones, who was drafted four times after playing baseball at Mountain View High in Orem. Jones decided to forgo turning pro three times, instead electing to play baseball at Utah Valley and then Arizona State. As a Sun Devil, he broke batting records held by superstars Bob Horner and Reggie Jackson.

As a professional player, the majority of his career — as talented as he was — was spent on long bus rides and inside changing venues. His major league experience was brief.

Now, if you’re lucky enough to get Jones in a golf scramble team, he can rocket a golf ball more than 340 yards. He’s an incredible athlete with amazing power in his silky smooth swing. It made him money as a pro baseball player.

The Texas Rangers first drafted Jones in 1997, then the Baltimore Orioles picked him in each of the next two years. Finally, the Yankees drafted Jones in the seventh round (218th overall) in 2000 after he finished his career at ASU.

Because Jones stayed in college, he set a Utah Valley record with 41 career homers in two years. At ASU, his .787 slugging percentage, with 27 homers, set a single-season Sun Devil record. Jones was a four-time All-Star with the Yankees’ minor-league system and started 2005 at the Yankees’ Triple-A Columbus Clippers, where he had 27 homers, 79 RBI and a .268 batting average. In April of that year, he hit for the cycle, something no Clipper did again until Jason Kipnis accomplished the feat in 2010. He won the Triple-A home run derby, defeating Ian Kinsler.

Jones later signed with the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates before retiring in 2011. He finished up with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians.

Jones’ major league experience came as a Dodger in 2009 when he got called up from the Albuquerque Isotopes.

Jones was kind enough to answer my request for his perspective on Hannemann's decision as a veteran professional baseball player.

The pros:

”Obviously it is a huge chance to get an opportunity to chase a dream that very few ever have. Some experts have said only 5 percent of high school kids play college. Of those, only another 5 percent play in the pros."

“The opportunity to make a lifetime’s worth of income is only one contract away after entering pro ball."

”The friends you make playing 142 (minors), 162 (MLB) games in almost as many days, are friends you will have for a lifetime. Can't help becoming like a family."

“You will have an opportunity to travel the country and see and meet many different types of people."

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