Sky's the limit for Twins' top Draft pick
Hicks has all the potential in the world to be a future star
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Darrell Miller has had the privilege of watching Aaron Hicks grow and develop in his role as the director of Major League Baseball's Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif. While he's watched Hicks become one of the premier, young amateur talents in the game, one of the most telling things Miller had to say about him had nothing to do with baseball.
It would seem that Hicks' talents with a driver and a wedge are as great as his talents with the lumber and the leather. The 18-year-old is a scratch golfer and probably could have had a career in that sport had he chosen to go that route.
"He is what Tiger Woods would look like if he played baseball," Miller said. "He's won a bunch of golf tournaments. Imagine the kind of impact he could have had in that sport."
Imagine indeed. The Twins will be more concerned, however, with what Hicks will be able to accomplish on the diamond after making him the 14th overall pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft on Thursday. Hicks is an outfielder with power and pitcher with a mid-90s fastball, but he prefers to stay on the field every day rather than be on the mound every five days. And the Twins will keep him in the outfield.
"This has been kind of crazy, it's real nerve-racking waiting for your name to be called out," said Hicks, who was the only player eligible to be drafted in attendance at The Milk House on Thursday. "Now that I've been drafted by a good organization, it feels good. I didn't expect it to feel so good. My heart dropped when I heart my name called. I got so excited."
Hicks, who had signed a letter of intent to attend the University of Southern California, has been exciting the folks at the Urban Academy since he was a sophomore. Miller and Co. approached him to join their ranks, and he's been there since.
"They've helped me mature from a young man into a man," Hicks said. "They have helped me out so much. When I feel like I'm slipping or doing something, they catch what's wrong quickly. I'm usually there on most weekends when they have time."
Not that Hicks has needed much work. According to MaxPreps, he hit .473 with four homers and 23 RBIs in 93 at-bats for Woodrow Wilson High School. He also went 8-2 with a 1.16 ERA and a save.
"He's such a great young man and his being here speaks volumes about the type of player he's going to be," Miller said. "He has the courage to come to the Draft, and he's the only [eligible player] here. He's a kid with tremendous courage, and he puts it on the line every day. Whatever he does, he puts it out there.
"We're thrilled to have him representing the academy. He's a great kid, and I hope it all works out well for him."
Miller believes that Hicks, despite coming out of high school, can have an impact in the Major Leagues, sooner rather later, if the Twins leave him in center field, which appears to be the case. Hicks is a switch-hitter with an arm rated at 80 and speed rated at 70.
"He has a chance for some incredible power," Miller said. "He hit a 470-480 foot home run last year against the Japanese National Team and their top pitcher when we hosted them at USC. He haunted them in 2006, too, when we went over there. They were scared to death of him. He had such a reputation in Japan as a junior.
"I didn't know how intimidated they were of him. But they were afraid of him and [fellow Urban Academy alumni Anthony] Gose. He's known throughout the world as one of the better players out there. He's not a guy that's unuse to pressure. He knows how to play at a high level, and I'm proud to have helped put him in a position where he could flourish."
As for his golf game, Hicks will put away the sticks for the time being. He began playing when he was 3 years old, but he began concentrating on baseball when his father, Joe, mentioned that he had been drafted and played Minor League ball when he was younger.
"I thought golf was going to be my game until I talked to my dad," Hicks said. "But now it's going to be baseball."
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.