September 14, 2012
With the 82nd overall pick in the 2011 draft, the San Diego Padres selected Austin Hedges, a catcher out of Junipero Serra Catholic HS in southern California. While the story of his rise through the minor leagues begins there, his path to the majors started much earlier.
Brett Kay is the head coach at Junipero Serra. Kay caught in 142 minor-league games, making it to High-A before his career came to a close in 2003. He wasn’t a big leaguer, but his experience made him an excellent instructor. In 2006, Kay had the chance to coach a promising young catcher. The kid was shy and skinny, but his athleticism and skillset were obvious. Austin Hedges was already showing the makings of a top prospect.
Two years later, that shy and skinny kid was a freshman playing varsity baseball. The team already had an upperclassman entrenched at catcher, but Hedges’ athletic ability allowed him to move across the diamond. One afternoon, Junipero Serra took on Orange Lutheran, and the older catcher misplayed a few balls. Kay, who was by then coaching the varsity club, decided to give Hedges a shot. One baserunner attempted to steal on Hedges and found himself thrown out by 15 feet. That baserunner was Gerrit Cole.
Hedges’ play continued to progress through his high school years. He matured both physically and emotionally, and eventually he committed to UCLA. He was a leader and a coach on the field and showed all the makeup of a top draft pick. Following his junior year, he participated in the summer circuit and started to raise some eyebrows. His pop times were particularly impressive: Hedges consistently got the ball from his glove to second base in under 1.8 seconds, and his athleticism and defensive acumen blew people away.
Entering his senior season, Hedges and his family expected that he’d join a talented group of players at UCLA, but “when the Padres came in with their offer,” Hedges recalled, “it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
“I’m definitely very happy with the decision I made.”