SYCAMORE – The first person Nathan Haacker texted was his mom.
Three days ago, the Sycamore sophomore first baseman was invited to the Silver and Black Series in late June at Triton College and Elgin Community College. Haacker will have the chance to go through a pro-style workout and play a couple of games in front of college coaches and professional scouts at the invitation-only showcase/tryout camp.
Players selected for what’s called the White Sox Area Code team will travel in August to Long Beach, Calif., to participate in the Area Code games. Area Code games alumni include Albert Pujols, Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw and Ryan Braun.
“I was so happy. I texted my mom right away,” Haacker said at Friday’s Sycamore practice.
While a potentially big opportunity isn’t too far away, Haacker’s focus is with the rest of the second-seeded Spartans, on today’s Class 3A Hampshire Regional championship game against top seed Burlington Central.
The Spartans (21-12) feel as though they’re playing their best baseball at the right time, evidenced by wins over a 20-win Harlem team Monday and defeating Crystal Lake Central in Thursday’s regional semifinals. Although Haacker said he hasn’t performed that well at the plate lately – he had two hits and two RBIs against Harlem – the 6-foot-2, 195-pound sophomore has played a big part in Sycamore’s success this season.
Sycamore coach Jason Cavanaugh said Haacker’s average is hovering around .350, and Haacker’s power has been on display the whole season. In a game against Hampshire in early April at Sycamore Park, Haacker hit a home run that cleared a tree in right-center field, an estimated 420-foot shot. With a 34-ounce bat at his disposal, Haacker hasn’t gotten cheated on any of his swings.
“You’ve got to think that he’s just going to get stronger,” Cavanaugh said. “I think he’s done growing, but you’ve got to think that he’s just going to keep getting stronger. He’s got such great plate coverage right now.”
As one of three sophomores up with the varsity, Haacker has found the transition pretty seamless. He said it’s helped that his best friend, sophomore infielder Alec Kozak is also on the team.
“I’ve been playing higher up since I was younger, so it was an easy adjustment,” Haacker said. “Plus I know all of these guys.”
Junior Mitchell Jordan, a three-year varsity starter, said Haacker’s ability to go deep at any time from the middle of Sycamore’s lineup has allowed him to stay confident playing against older kids.
“When you’re playing varsity sports when you’re younger, you know you have the talent,” Jordan said. “It’s just about putting it together and if you can stay confident.
“If he needs help, he’ll come up and ask for it. He’s always wanting to get better, so that’s a good thing.”
The Spartans hope today is one more step forward in Haacker’s development, and a day that ends with a regional championship.
“He hasn’t been overly successful this year with everything, but he looks scary standing there,” Cavanaugh said. “I’m looking forward to having him as a No. 4 hitter for the next two years.”