Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Faith prepared Hannemann for baseball's challenges

In Cubs' system, outfielder catching up after devoting 2 years to mission
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- Jacob Hannemann had a decision to make: Play baseball or fulfill a two-year Mormon mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Little Rock, Ark. He chose the latter.

"I got drafted out of high school [by the Royals], so I was like, 'Shoot, [missionary work in] Arkansas, or go play baseball,'" Hannemann said. "I prayed about it, and felt good about going on the mission."

MESA, Ariz. -- Jacob Hannemann had a decision to make: Play baseball or fulfill a two-year Mormon mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Little Rock, Ark. He chose the latter.

"I got drafted out of high school [by the Royals], so I was like, 'Shoot, [missionary work in] Arkansas, or go play baseball,'" Hannemann said. "I prayed about it, and felt good about going on the mission."

The Royals offered Hannemann the opportunity to play at their Double-A Northwest Arkansas Minor League affiliate, but that's not how the mission works. He did bring his glove with him, but he says he played catch two or three times, just for fun. Hannemann was allowed to call home twice a year -- once on Mother's Day and also on Christmas. He worked with people addicted to alcohol and cigarettes, did service work and taught people about Jesus Christ.

Spring: Info | Tickets | Schedule | Gear

"It was tough, but a lot of people got better, so it was good," Hannemann said.

After the two-year stint, Hannemann returned to his home in Utah and enrolled at Brigham Young University on a football scholarship. However, his body wasn't in football shape, and injuries kept him on the scout team. Hannemann had time to get ready for baseball, and he batted .344 his freshman year at BYU.

The Cubs selected the outfielder in the third round of the 2013 Draft. Hannemann is nearly two years older than the average Minor League player, but he has less experience. Last season, he batted .247 at Double-A Tennessee until a thumb injury ended his season. The 25-year-old was in the Cubs' big league camp until he was optioned to Triple-A Iowa on Friday.

Video: CHC@LAD: Hannemann skies RBI double to left-center

Does Hannemann feel the time off for the mission hurt his chances at a pro baseball career?

"I just wanted to give back to the Lord what he gave me," Hannemann said. "I did that. Obviously, I missed time and I have some catching up to do, but I've been blessed to keep on learning and reaching more potential, so it's good. I'm healthy -- I'm getting old, but at the same time, I don't feel old. I hope to still play for some time."

"I don't think he's that far off," Cubs Minor League manager Mark Johnson said of Hannemann. "He's been playing for the last three years. The thumb injury last year set him back a little bit, but he looks as good as he did midseason last year."

Those two years definitely helped Hannemann as a person.

"If anything, it helped me now, my life in general, just made it more stable and helped me be able to get through hard things," Hannemann said. "It's hard to leave your family for two years. It taught me a good work ethic."

"It just shows you what he's all about," said Johnson, who managed the outfielder at Tennessee and at Class A Myrtle Beach. "It's humbling. It shows you the kind of character he has and what means a lot to him. You wish you could do something like that yourself. You've got to respect that and understand he made a huge sacrifice. He could've gone straight into professional ball and been on the fast track. It's very impressive. It's fun to be around a kid like that with that kind of character."

Hannemann's brothers also did their mission work, but one was in Tahiti and the other in Ghana.

"I can go [to Tahiti] for vacation, I guess," Hannemann said, laughing. "If I was there, I probably would've surfed the whole time.

"It's a good thing we do [the mission work]," he said. "Everything good comes from God."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

Chicago Cubs, Jacob Hannemann