By: Andrew Preston
It was a Wednesday evening former Trojan baseball player and current Trevecca student Hunter Newman will never forget.
Newman answered his ringing cell phone only to realize the St. Louis Cardinals were on the other end.
He was going to be drafted to play professional baseball.
“I wasn’t for sure if I’d be taken,” Newman recalled of his experience on draft day. “It was a waiting game. I knew it was a possibility, but it’d be on day three.”
Major League Baseball (MLB) holds its amateur player draft over a three-day period. Day one includes the televised first and second rounds, while day two covers rounds three through 10 and day three rounds 11-40.
Newman had been drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 22nd round with the 671st pick of the 2015 draft.
“It was unbelievable,” Newman said. “It was so surreal. I worked my entire life for that moment and it finally happened.”
A lifelong Braves fan, Newman says he wouldn’t have cared who drafted him, he was content.
“Just saying I was able to play professional baseball is a dream come true,” Newman said. “As a little boy everyone dreams of playing in the big leagues and I got to do that.”
Newman is one of only eight Trojans to ever be drafted by a professional baseball team. Six other former Trojans have been signed and played professionally.
“Playing professionally was a lot different than what I expected,” Newman said. “It was no joke. I was worn down mentally and physically because you don’t have any time for anything else.”
In fact, the expectations Newman faced at the professional level were unlike anything he’d ever done before.
“It was an absolute grind,” Newman explained. “There are no set hours like in college, no limitations, you just had to get there and do your job. We got two days off a month as opposed to one day off a week.”
However, Newman says his playing experience at Trevecca prepared him well for the next level.
“Coach Schmalz and the entire coaching staff did a lot for me,” Newman said. “Coach Schmalz came in the same year when I was a freshman. We grew together. He developed me as a player and put me in great position to be drafted.”
While at Trevecca, Newman attracted several MLB scouts who attended most Trevecca home games and even some on the road, according to head coach Ryan Schmalz.
“Each (MLB) team has a scout that covers as certain region,” Schmalz explained. “So one scout may cover a huge geographical territory like Tennessee, Kentucky and north Georgia to find guys. Hunter had a few scouts at our games.”
Schmalz said there were as many as four or five scouts at a game depending on the night.
The Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals are among a few of the teams who scouted Newman.
“I knew even from his freshman year he was good enough to be drafted,” Schmalz said. “He was a dominating hitter and had that physical presence. He’s a bigger body guy, I had no doubt he could hit at any level.”
For Newman, the dynamics of professional baseball took some getting used to.
“In high school and college you play for your team,” Newman explained. “Professionally you are competing for your team and for yourself. It’s every man for himself. If you want to move up, you have to prove you’re better than the next guy.”
Throughout his three-year career, Newman played in 86 games, hitting .271 with 21 doubles and 36 RBIs. He first played two seasons in Johnson City before advancing to Single A where he played for the State College Spikes.
“If I could have done it over again, I would have picked Trevecca,” Newman said. “I loved everything about the program and the small campus atmosphere. I was blessed with the opportunity to play baseball and grow in my faith.”
One of the deciding factors in leaving professional baseball to come back to Trevecca for Newman was his salary.
“After your signing bonus runs out everyone gets paid the same their first year,” Newman said. “Once you make it up to Triple A is when you begin to make about $2,300 a month. The pay goes up as you go up in level, but I didn’t make a lot.”
Newman’s decision to finish his degree was simple.
“So many guys are competing for so few spots and if you’re not one of the guys who signs for a ridiculous amount of money they don’t care for you,” Newman said. “You’re just a guy filling a roster spot.”
Newman retired after playing in three seasons of professional baseball.
“It was my own decision and the hardest decision I’ve ever made,” Newman said. “One of the biggest things before I signed my contact was the inclusion of my tuition. I knew baseball wasn’t going to last forever and I wanted my degree to be paid for.”
In May, Newman will graduate with a degree in Sports Management.
“It was extremely tough at first,” Newman said of his transition from the field to the classroom. “Like anything else you get back into the routine and fall back into what it was like before.”
In addition to his studies, Newman is the assistant baseball coach at Ezell-Harding Christian where he helps former Trojan and Trevecca graduate, Mark Rayburn.
For now, Newman says he wants to remain around baseball by becoming a head coach.
“That’s the plan,” Newman said.