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Rays’ call emotional for Sierra Vista’s Hager

Jake Hager had dreamed of hearing his name called in the baseball draft for as long as he could remember.

When the moment arrived Monday, it brought with it a family celebration the Sierra Vista High School shortstop will never forget.

“The emotions just overflowed,” said Jake’s father, Scott.

Hager, considered the area’s top five-tool prospect, was chosen by the Tampa Bay Rays in the first round with the No. 32 overall pick.

“I was speechless,” Jake Hager said. “It’s the greatest moment of my life. I’d been waiting the whole day for it, and once it came, it was the greatest.”

Hager has until Aug. 15 to decide whether to sign a professional contract or fulfill his college commitment to Arizona State, but he and his father said Monday the chances are good that he will sign with the Rays.

“Arizona State is a great place to play ball, but I’m ready to start my future in pro ball,” Hager said. “Talking it through with my family, we want to have the right negotiations and everything, but hopefully (the money) will stay put.”

Scott Hager added: “It’s our belief that in talking with Tampa, we want Jake to sign and want him to go to work. It’ll benefit him if he can sign and get like two months under his belt instead of waiting for the deadline in August.”

Hager enjoyed a banner season at Sierra Vista this year, batting .547 with 11 home runs and 57 RBIs on his way to Gatorade Nevada Baseball Player of the Year honors.

He was the face of a program that went 34-5 in 2011 after reaching the American Legion World Series in 2010.

“It’s the culmination of hard work. He’s definitely deserving of it,” Sierra Vista coach Nate Selby said of his four-year starter. “I think probably the biggest thing that helped him (in the draft) is the intangibles with his intelligence and his coachability.”

Hager thrived as the Mountain Lions’ leadoff man, scoring 75 runs as a senior. He also had 22 doubles and three triples while compiling a 1.023 slugging percentage.

The right-hander also chipped in on the mound, going 3-2 with a 2.43 ERA this season.

“I would describe myself as willing to do anything to get better,” Hager said. “I’ve worked hard every year to get to where I am right now, and I have to thank my coaches.”

Hager’s selection late in the first round was an early surprise to some draft experts, but the 6-foot-1-inch, 180-pound shortstop wasn’t stunned.

Most projections had Hager coming off the board no lower than the third round.

“I felt like I could be a first-rounder, first or second,” said Hager, who had heard from the Rays frequently leading up to the draft.

Jake Hager knows the draft is only the beginning of a pro career. Scott Hager said his son will be ready for the grind of playing in the minor leagues as his career gets under way.

“With his character and the way he carries himself, he’s a great kid,” Scott Hager said. “I can’t say enough about how proud we are as parents.”

Several other local high school players are expected to be chosen today, as the draft continues with rounds Nos. 2 to 30.

Contact reporter Tristan Aird at taird@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203.

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