Former Cavs stay close
Hicks, Proscia relish shared experiences in Mariners organization
Former Virginia catcher John Hicks and third baseman Steven Proscia sat together at Davenport Field, watching as Hicks' name flashed onto the screen. Round Four, Pick No. 123 in the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft belonged to him.
"We had just had a team workout at the stadium, and my parents had come up," Hicks said. "Proscia and his family were also there so we were just watching it, and I saw my name come up, and 30 seconds later I got a call from [the Seattle Mariners'] scout, and he congratulated me. It was just an awesome feeling."
A few rounds later, it was Proscia's turn to see his name appear, as the Mariners drafted him with the 213th overall pick.
"I was actually on my way home from Chipotle and looking at it," Proscia said. "It was really special, my mom was right there and screaming, my dad was following us and he was excited, and then my phone started blowing up."
It's fitting that the same team selected Hicks and Proscia - throughout their three seasons playing baseball for Virginia, the two were inseparable.
"We were roommates freshman, sophomore, junior years, and we played at the Cape [Cod League] together," Proscia said. "We talk every other day and we keep in touch. We always talk about how it's going."
Currently, Hicks plays for the Class A Clinton Lumberkings in Iowa, while Proscia plays for the Class A Advanced High Desert Mavericks in California. The duo will be reconnected again in September, though, when they and former teammate Danny Hultzen, attend the Mariners' instructional league. Hultzen was the No. 2 overall pick in the draft and recently signed a contract with Seattle which guarantees him $8.5 million.
"I congratulated him, and I was very excited for him, and he's well deserving," Proscia said. "But I also told him I'll be hanging with him in Spring Training, and if we go to the same league, [he's] paying for everything."
Hultzen anchored the Cavaliers' pitching staff last season with a 1.37 ERA, and his 32 career wins are the most in program history. His battery mate Hicks hit .332 with eight home runs and 59 RBIs, and Proscia matched those numbers by hitting eight home runs and 59 RBIs as well. The three teammates were instrumental during the Cavaliers' College World Series run this summer, but each decided to forgo his senior year for a shot at professional baseball.
For Hicks, seeing his name in the fourth round made a difficult decision easier.
"Basically I kind of had an area that if I got drafted, that I was probably going to go," Hicks said. "Coach [Brian] O'Connor and I had already had a conversation about that, and he was totally behind me. But it was still a tough decision, leaving Virginia because of all the great memories and friendship and brotherhood we had with the team."
For Proscia, the decision was less concrete.
"It was hard to decide, I was going back and forth, back and forth," he said. "It really wasn't a done deal, but I talked to coach [O'Connor] and we both agreed that it would be the best decision for me to go."
While making their choice to leave college, both Proscia and Hicks turned to O'Connor because he was the man central to their college experiences.
"I had the best coaching staff in the country," Proscia said. "I'm so thankful for everything they've done, and I know if I ever need anything they're just one call away. It's great to have that kind of relationship."
That bond helps the Cavalier players as they adjust to a new league, a new schedule, new bats and a new life.
"You play every day and it's kind of a grind on your body and mentally also to get ready for everyday play," Hicks said. Having teammates around "definitely makes it easier."
Proscia has handled the shift from college to minor league baseball flawlessly, hitting .314 with seven home runs during his time in California.
"I've been doing pretty well lately," Proscia said. "It's a lot different. You play every day, [and] there's always an opportunity; even if you don't produce one day, you know you have the next day to come out. Having that mindset, it's a lot easier, a lot more relaxed."
Proscia's on-field transition has been comparatively easy, but he still relies on the network of Virginia players to handle off-the-field changes. A New York native, Proscia said he is still adjusting to living in the "desert," and with his family on the East Coast, the 21-year-old is learning to navigate life on his own.
Giving up his final year in college has allowed Proscia to pursue a childhood dream, but it also thrusts him into adulthood a year earlier than his peers. And he's found that part of leaving college has been holding onto ties with the same college teammates.
"It's very weird," Proscia said of being out of school. "Last night when I was with [former Virginia center fielder Jarrett] Parker, we were talking about it. We want to go back for another year so badly. It's a great experience; I wish I was back there. After the instructional league, I'm going back to Charlottesville"