CHICAGO -- Ed Howard will approach the 2020 MLB Draft, running Wednesday and Thursday evenings, wondering where he will land in the first round or shortly thereafter
Tré Hondras, a teammate of Howard’s with the 2014 Jackie Robinson West Little League squad as well as for many years with the White Sox Amateur Elite youth baseball program, will focus more on whether his name will be called at all during the abbreviated five rounds.
But the uncertainty won’t dampen Hondras’ excitement.
“Just to know that this is supposed to be our year that all my friends and teammates I played with were supposedly going in the Draft, even though some of those guys won’t have an opportunity to,” Hondras told MLB.com during a recent interview. “I got Ed. I got a couple of the guys I know from different states that might get drafted, so I’m happy for all of us to even get this big time shot.”
The move from the Draft’s normal 40 rounds to 5 is due to conditions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, the same pandemic costing Hondras his senior baseball season at Homewood-Flossmoor High School in the south suburbs of Chicago and Howard his same senior year at Mt. Carmel High School in Chicago. Undrafted players will receive no more than $20,000 as a signing bonus under this arrangement.
Howard, a talented shortstop who is committed to the University of Oklahoma, is ranked No. 15 among MLB Pipeline’s Top Draft prospects. He was not listed as a first-round pick in MLB Pipeline’s mock draft Tuesday although he was mentioned as a possibility for the Athletics, Yankees, and Dodgers.
Getting picked at No. 11 by the White Sox seems more remote for Howard as the days move closer to the Draft. But through their ACE program, the same program with 24 participants previously drafted, it’s the White Sox who have been one of the many contributing forces in Howard’s development.
“They just helped me on the field and off the field, helped me mature as a person and a player, mentally, physically,” said Howard in a video released by the White Sox. “It shows they care about the kids, about us being successful. They give us these wonderful opportunities to do something with the game of baseball.”
“Going back to what we value most, the character of the young man, the way he presents himself in a confident way but a humble confident way, not arrogant at all, just in his belief in what he brings to the table,” said White Sox executive vide president Ken Williams, in another pre-Draft video from the team. “He’s going to end up not only a good Major Leaguer, if he continues on with that drive he has shown us, but he’ll be a good teammate and he’ll ultimately be a good father, a good representative of whatever community of whatever team drafts him. He’s a solid young man and I look forward to seeing his future how it plays out.”
Hondras began his career as a catcher, quickly moved to the outfield to make better usage of his athleticism but truly feels comfortable anywhere on the field. He is committed to the University of Michigan, the 2019 NCAA runner-up to champion Vanderbilt, and is not currently listed among MLB Pipeline’s Top 200 Draft prospects.
It was the White Sox who really instilled the baseball desire in Hondras, and not just through ACE competition. When he was 5, he was watching a White Sox game with his dad and his dad fell asleep.
“I watched all nine innings,” Hondras said. “And that’s when I wanted to play baseball.”
Ken Griffey Jr., Mark Buehrle, Paul Konerko, Joe Crede and Juan Uribe stood out as Hondras’ favorite players when he was very young, and he pointed to White Sox standout prospect Luis Robert from a large group right now. Developing young baseball talents might someday feel the same about Hondras and Howard.
“Those two kids are going to work,” said White Sox ACE program manager Kenny Fullman of Hondras and Howard. “You are not going to worry about those kids going out every day and giving it their all and 200 percent on the ballfield and in the weight room. They are very coachable, and they are going to listen and work hard to achieve their goals.”
“There are more kids coming up,” Howard said. “They are watching the older kids. It’s important for us to set an example for them.”