Oh, brother: Braves' No. 59 pick joins NFL, MLS and MLB siblings

June 23rd, 2023

This story was originally published on June 23. We have updated it to reflect Drue Hackenberg being drafted No. 59 overall by the Braves.

PHOENIX -- How is it that four brothers could make it into the professional ranks of their chosen sport within seven years of one another? Drue Hackenberg, who was selected by the Braves with the 59th overall pick in the 2023 Draft and the youngest of the Hackenberg pro clan, divulged the secret at the 2023 Draft Combine.

Chocolate milk. And lots of it.

“That was kind of what we grew up on,” Hackenberg said. “Adam [a catcher in the White Sox organization], he certainly loves chocolate milk. We’re all thankful that we have the parents we have, obviously they were both athletes themselves -- it didn’t come just from nowhere -- but we all built upon one another as we went through it. Obviously, those guys paved the way for me.

“Just growing up and competing, we kind of learned how to compete at a high level early.”

Drue primarily rode his sinker-slider combo up Draft boards over two seasons in the Virginia Tech starting rotation. His commitment to play in Blacksburg under head coach John Szefc derived almost entirely from his decision to forgo other athletic opportunities in order to suit up under legendary left-handed reliever Billy Wagner, the head coach at The Miller School in Charlottesville, Va., during his high school years.

“I mean, that guy taught me, he made a great foundation for me just mechanically and everything,” Hackenberg said of Wagner. “He also taught me a lot of life lessons that I'm going to take away for the rest of my life. How to put your nose to the grindstone and keep grinding every day, do the little things right and at the end of the day, it’ll all work itself out. Great person to learn from.”

Stating that playing under Szefc was like going from “Billy to Billy” in a way, Hackenberg’s mentors, of which there have been many, are in his case, uniquely as close to home as it can get.

Eldest brother, Christian, was a second-round pick of the New York Jets in the 2016 NFL Draft; Brandon was a first-round pick in the 2021 MLS SuperDraft; Adam was an 18th-round selection of the White Sox that same year and has climbed as high as Double-A Birmingham. When the group gets together, “it’s still a madhouse” but one that has undoubtedly shaped Drue’s development.

“You learn the tough parts about the business side of things and, you know, just going to the right place matters as well,” Hackenberg said. “Each of you learn adversity in each way and you kind of learn from it even without experiencing it yourself. So I take away a lot from all those guys and I can’t be more thankful being the last one and to have all of them to kind of lead the way.”

The last of the Hackenberg lineage for this generation, Drue -- who believes that although it would be a battle, would strike out all three of his brothers -- hasn’t shirked the spotlight that comes with his last name or chosen career path.

“I’m always up to meet people and to get a picture with somebody and make their day or anything like that,” Hackenberg said. “I’m always there for the fans and I always love the support.”

Just three times in big league history have pitcher/catcher brothers made up a battery (not including in 2021 when infielder Andrew Romine threw to catcher brother, Austin) -- Norm and Larry Sherry, 1962; Jim and Ed Bailey; 1959; Bobby and Billy Shantz 1954-55. But for Drue, going from throwing with his brother, Adam, in their backyard to the bright lights of a big league environment would be the culmination of hours spent together honing their craft, reciprocating the tough love they’ve thrived on.

“Obviously, it would be a very special moment between me and him,” Hackenberg said of Adam possibly being his batterymate at the next level. “So hopefully one day that might happen. And if it does, I mean, we're going to cherish that for the rest of our lives, for sure.”