FORT WAYNE – Austin Hedges had options.
He could have played college baseball at UCLA, but he was ready to play ball every day.
Nothing interested me more than coming out here with this organization and playing ball for them every single day, the catcher said Monday.
Hedges is one of five players on Fort Wayne’s roster ranked in the top 30 on the list of top prospects in San Diego’s organization, according to Baseball America.
The TinCaps open the season tonight against Lake County at Parkview Field.
I’m pumped, the 19-year-old said. I’ve been waiting for this for a while now. The season is here. I couldn’t be any more excited being here with the guys and getting ready to go.
A second-round pick in 2011, Hedges is the No. 5 prospect in the Padres’ organization, according to Baseball America.
He calls a great game, said Cody Hebner, who was scheduled to start tonight but injured his ankle. Frank Garces will start instead.
He knows what to call, and I trust him. I like working with him. He’s the best catcher I’ve ever thrown to.
Hedges had a .366 batting average as a senior at Junipero Serra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., in 2011. Hedges, who’s known for his defense, received a reported $3 million signing bonus.
There are a lot of tools on that guy, TinCaps manager Jose Valentin said. He has a great arm. He works hard. He’s a great kid. He’s really serious about his job. He loves to play the game.
Hedges said physical and mental aspects drew him to the position.
Just being mentally tough, not taking any pitches off. You’re in there every single pitch, he said.
You have to be putting down the right fingers and if the pitch is in the dirt, it’s you’re job to keep that in front. It’s being ready every pitch.
Last year, Hedges appeared in four games for San Diego’s short-season A team in Eugene, Ore. He had one hit in 10 at-bats. He also played in five games in the Arizona League, hitting .313 with one home run and four RBI for the Peoria (Ariz.) Padres. He spent the spring working on getting better at something new every day.
I needed to get my foundation back with my receiving, blocking and footwork obviously, he said. The big thing was getting to know the pitching staff so I have a relationship with them and what they want to throw in what situation so I can know how to get these hitters out this year.
Hedges and Matt Colantonio will work with a pitching staff that includes three starters 20 or younger.
I caught some of them last year at instructs and throughout the spring, Hedges said. I got to know them as they pitched and off the field a little bit. I’m hoping to have my relationship grow with them every day so we can have a successful year.
This is just the beginning of a trek that could one day land him back in his home state, playing major league baseball.
The possibility of my family being able to stay home and watch games, Hedges said, it couldn’t get any better than that.