WRITER’S NOTE: It seems to me that the process for rookies entering the NFL and NBA are very well-documented. However, due to the multiple levels of baseball farm system and the years that draftees spend in the minors, often times newly drafted guys disappear off the radar for a time until they’re either in the bigs or on the cusp of being called up. When the Os took Brenan Hanifee in the 4th round of the 2016 draft, I was excited at the prospect of being able to hear about the process and check-in periodically with a player with whom I was personally familiar. This series of posts entitled “Becoming a Pro” will chronicle Brenan Hanifee, the Orioles’ 18th ranked prospect according to MLB.com.
In February, a close friend of mine started coaching baseball at Turner Ashby High School in Bridgewater, Va. The team was loaded with talent, but he told me specifically about their best player, Brenan Hanifee. Hanifee, Turner Ashby’s top pitcher and starting shortstop, had committed to East Carolina University. At 18, his fastball was consistently 91-93 mph and touching 95 mph, and his two seam had solid movement. He also was a stud with his glove and at the plate (when I saw him play in April, he started at SS and hit a two-run homer in the first inning). The captain and “clear leader” of a state semi-final baseball team was now a member of his favorite pro team’s farm system.
Prior to his senior year, forgoing college ball was not on Brenan Hanifee’s radar. The 6’5″, 180lb. righty had committed to play for ECU and was focused on winning a Virginia state title on a team loaded with talent at Turner Ashby High School. As Hanifee prepared for a preseason scrimmage, everything began to change. Scouts from the Mets & Dodgers were there to watch him throw for the first time all year. “It changes your mindset,” Hanifee said, “You just want to throw strikes and make sure you throw all your pitches.” He impressed from the onset and struck out 5 in 2 innings. From that point, pro scouts were present at every game, and according to Hanifee, there were “usually more than 10.” Hanifee impressed with every opportunity as well, going 7-0 with a 0.78 ERA.
Hanifee did not log a lot of innings on the mound for the Black Knights during his sophomore and junior seasons and didn’t participate in many scout showcases. He also missed pre-draft workouts because of a playoff game. Despite this, he became well acquainted with many professional scouts and spoke frequently with several throughout his stellar senior year. The Red Sox, Rangers, and Padres were among teams that made their interest in Hanifee known, but he built his best relationship with Orioles’ scout Rich Morales. “He was my biggest inspiration leading up (to the draft),” Hanifee said of Morales, “We were texting all the time.” Morales came to every one of Hanifee’s starts during the season and was in constant contact with the righty even up to draft day.
Heading into the draft, Hanifee still wasn’t sure what to expect. Everyone seemed to have a different idea about where he would go, ranging anywhere from the 4th to the 10th round, but Hanifee had a “feeling” he would go to the Os in the 4th. On draft day, TA lost in a state semifinal game and on the somber ride back, Hanifee and his assistant coach were watching the draft on their phones. That’s when Morales called, “We’re taking a shortstop in the 4th and you in the 5th.” At that point, Hanifee turned off the draft and thought he’d have a little time between then and his official call. Within a minute his phone rang again. “Are you watching the draft? Watch right now.” Morales said on the other end before saying he’d let him have time to celebrate before he called back.
At that time, he saw his name come across the screen and his teammates erupted. Players went from silent to jumping around. The pick was also celebrated by Morales as Hanifee was the highest pick he’d scouted. On the day before his high school graduation, Brenan Hanifee had received a call that millions have only ever dreamed of. The 18 year old from tiny Hinton, VA was going to be a professional baseball player.