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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Salt Lake Bees outfielder Michael Hermosillo hits a two-run homer against the Nashville Sounds in Salt Lake City on Sunday, July 29, 2018.

SALT LAKE CITY — After high school, Salt Lake Bees outfielder Michael Hermosillo had an important choice to make. A three-star football player out of high school, Hermosillo committed to play college football at the University of Illinois.

Turns out, fate had other plans for him.

Hermosillo was drafted by the Los Angles Angels in the 28th round of the 2013 MLB draft, and suddenly he had to choose whether he wanted to play college football or turn pro and play baseball.

He picked baseball, signing his rookie contract and never looking back.

“I think, honestly, I just always felt like I could compete when it came to baseball. I had played against enough guys in high school that had gone on to go and get drafted as well, so I always felt like I had the ability to do that. With football, just the injuries thing. I always felt like baseball was going to be a smarter decision with that, just health-wise, so that definitely played a big part,” Hermosillo said.

Hermosillo had to wait a long time to hear his name called at the MLB draft, but he finally got the call with the 847th pick.

“It was definitely an awesome experience to get drafted. Obviously, not everyone gets to say that, so it was definitely awesome. It was definitely unfortunate where I got drafted at the time, just because I always felt like my ability was better than where I got drafted, but it just remained a chip on my shoulder and motivation, but it was definitely exciting,” Hermosillo said.

Since he was drafted, Hermosillo has worked hard to prove that he belongs in the major leagues. Hermosillo worked his way up through the rookie leagues from his minor league debut in 2013, but in 2017, everything clicked. Hermosillo shot up the minor league ranks, going from Advanced-A to Double-A and to Triple-A — all in one year.

“Just a combination of playing every bat, going at-bat to at-bat, just the organization believing in me and my ability to play at every level that I stopped at,” Hermosillo said.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Salt Lake Bees outfielder Michael Hermosillo (2) celebrates his homer against the Nashville Sounds with Salt Lake Bees shortstop Luis Rengifo (5) in Salt Lake City on Sunday, July 29, 2018.

In 2018, Hermosillo is batting .277 with 11 home runs and 41 RBIs more than halfway through his first full Triple-A season. His play in Salt Lake caught the attention of the Angels, who called him up to make his MLB debut on May 18, 2018, against the Tampa Bay Rays. Hermosillo’s first big league hit was a double.

“Definitely anxious,” Hermosillo said of his feelings before the game. “Nothing really can compare or prepare you for that experience. It was definitely awesome to get that first hit out of the way. That kind of got the nerves down real quick, plus, I made a play in foul territory to start the game, one of the first plays, that calmed the nerves too, just making that play. It was definitely an awesome experience, it was just very anxious at first.”

Hermosillo said that the biggest difference from the minor leagues to the MLB is the quality of pitching a batter has to face.

“The pitching, you don’t really get any type of day off in terms of pitching. Obviously, there’s one through five starters, they’re all talented, and everyone in the pen is throwing 98 for the most part, or harder, so that’s probably the biggest difference,” Hermosillo said. “Also, just staying within your game plan. Sometimes things can get a little crazy, just being up there in front of all of the people, and the attention and everything like that, so the biggest part is just trying to slow it down, because at the end of the day, it really is the same game.”

In all, Hermosillo was with the Angels for 16 games before being sent back down to Salt Lake. Hermosillo went 5 for 38, batting just .132 during his first stint in the MLB, so he knows that he has work to do before sticking in the Show. Hermosillo was also called up on July 10, appearing in the July 12 game against Seattle, where he hit a single.

Bees manager Keith Johnson sees the potential in Hermosillo.

“Obviously, he still has some developing to do, both on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. He has more athleticism than just about anybody on this team — or in the league, if you want to go that far. It’s just a matter of all of that culminating and being the best player that he can be,” Johnson said. “There’s still some adjustment that he has to make on the defensive side, whether it be his routes or coming up and throwing the ball, or whatnot. Even on the offensive side, just the consistency of his approach.”

Back in Salt Lake, the Bees coaching staff is working with Hermosillo to try and improve his skills before his next call-up.

“For him to get the opportunity to go to the big leagues so far, make the most of that and come back down here, eager to learn, so that way once he gets back up there, he’s in a better position to compete, has been awesome,” Johnson said.

Hermosillo cites Bees hitting coach Donny Ecker and Johnson for helping mold him — both in his swing and in his mentality, so he can make the most of his next stint with the Angels.

“For sure, just get consistent at-bats up there. Make the most of those at-bats, even when I’m not getting consistent at-bats. Just stick to my plan. Things up there, it’s been just a small sample size, so hopefully, once I get more reps up there, things will improve for sure,” Hermosillo said.

On Sunday, Hermosillo had an excellent game, hitting two home runs and a double — going 4 for 5 with four RBIs in Salt Lake’s 9-5 loss to Nashville.

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“It’s kind of hard to say, just because we didn’t come out on top. I think I had a two-home-run game earlier this year where we got the win, so it’s kind of disappointing on that end, but very grateful to have the day that I did, it was definitely exciting,” Hermosillo said.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Salt Lake Bees pitcher Dylan Unsworth (12) pitches against the Nashville Sounds in Salt Lake City on Sunday, July 29, 2018.

BEELINES

  • Sounds — 9
  • Bees — 5
  • In short: A four-run seventh inning from the Sounds spoiled Michael Hermosillo’s great night.
  • Record: 57-50
  • Next up: Nashville RHP Daniel Mengden (2-1, 2.91 ERA) at Salt Lake TBA, Monday, 7:05 p.m.