Blake Hickman drafted: 'I'm ready for a new chapter'

Chad Leistikow

Blake Hickman acknowledged he got antsy when his named wasn't called in Rounds 1-6 of the Major League Baseball draft.

But when the wait ended, he wound up in a pile of joy with his older brother and mother back home in Chicago.

Hickman, the all-Big Ten Conference pitcher for Iowa, was drafted Tuesday in the seventh round by the Chicago White Sox — his favorite team while growing up in a rough part of town on the city's south side.

"I guess something happened where I moved down the board," Hickman said, "but things happen for a reason. I'm just excited, and I'm just ready to get started."

Respected analysts, including at Baseball America and ESPN, had projected the junior to be taken on the First-Year Player Draft's opening night, somewhere in the range of No. 70 overall. Instead, Hickman was the 202nd player picked.

According to Baseball America, the signing-bonus slot value for that selection is $213,400 (compared with $879,500 for a player drafted No. 70). Hickman could be signed for more than slot value, depending how the White Sox choose to spread out their draft-allocated dollars.

"I hope I do (get more than slot), but if I don't ... I didn't really get into this for the money," Hickman said. "I love the game, and I'm just very happy that it's here. It's been a long three years. I've been working extremely hard for this. I won't let dollar signs stop me from my dreams."

Hickman, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound right-hander, turned heads in his first year as a full-time pitcher with a fastball that could reach 97 mph. The converted catcher was the No. 2 starter for a team that won its first NCAA regional games in 43 years and became the Hawkeyes' first all-American since 1999.

Hickman compiled a 9-2 record with a 2.99 ERA in 84 1/3 innings, obviously by far a career high. He lost velocity in his final two starts, against Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament and Missouri State in the NCAA regional.

As he answered a reporter's questions Tuesday, he received a text with his flight information later this week to Arizona, home of the White Sox spring training facility. Things are moving quickly.

"I think I am ready," Hickman said. "I'm ready for a new chapter in life."

The early vibe he's gotten from the White Sox is that he'll start out as a relief pitcher.

As each round ticked off Tuesday without being picked, the thought of returning to Iowa for his senior season crept into Hickman's mind. He has promised his mother, Desiree, he would complete his degree at some point.

But he said he feels the Hawkeyes, who won 41 games (second most in school history) last season, will be fine without him.

"The school isn't the University of Blake Hickman, it's the University of Iowa," he said. "They're going to find guys and great players and ultimately great people."