Hunter Haworth was driving back to his parents’ home in Hollister on June 15 when his phone started blowing up. Haworth, a 2014 San Benito High graduate who recently completed a stellar junior season at Chico State University, received 52—yes, 52—calls in a five-minute stretch starting around 11:30 a.m.
Haworth didn’t know he had been selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 22nd round (671st overall) in the Major League Baseball Draft. The first call came from his college roommate, Cameron Santos, who offered congratulations to the 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-hander. Incredulous, Haworth pulled over to the side of the road before checking his smart phone and seeing his name on the MLB Draft Tracker.
Haworth didn’t know how to react.
“I didn’t know what to do at that moment,” he said. “If I close my eyes and open them, am I going to be wake up and realize I’m dreaming all this?”
Reality was better than a dream.
“It’s a big deal,” Haworth said. “I’ve been working for this since I was 7 years old. It ended up working out, and I’m forever grateful for it.”
As of Tuesday morning, Haworth was in Fort Meyers, Fla. rehabbing his back. Haworth said once he passes a physical—it should be later this week—he’ll sign a contract before starting his pro career at one of the Red Sox’s Single-A short season teams. Yes, things are moving quite fast for Haworth, who earned Division II All-West Region Second Team honors this past season after finishing 7-1 with a 2.54 ERA.
Since Haworth suffered a disc bulge in his lower back with a week left in the regular season, he had no idea if it was going to hurt his chances of getting drafted. Haworth had been in talks with a Red Sox scout leading up the MLB Draft.
“Things were kind of up in the air for me,” he said. “I didn’t know if the injury hurt me. I was prepared either way, to get drafted or if I didn’t I would return to Chico State and try to help us win a national championship.”
Haworth has been one of Chico State’s best pitchers in the last two years. As a freshman, Haworth had the same approach he had in high school—to rear back and blow it by hitters with his fastball. But as Haworth quickly found out, what worked in high school wasn’t going to cut it at the college level.
Even though Haworth earned one of the three spots in the starting rotation, he was hit hard and often, going 2-6 with a 7.57 ERA.
“I had to learn to play the game in a different way,” Haworth said.
So he did. In the summer before his sophomore year, Haworth played for the Bellingham Bells of the West Coast League. Bells pitching coach Jim Clem worked with Haworth to fix the flaws in his mechanics, and it transformed him from a thrower into a pitcher. Haworth also credited Chico State coach Dave Taylor and then pitching coach Luke Barker for turning him into a MLB draftee.
Under the tutelage of the three coaches, Haworth became a student of the game, studying hitters and their tendencies.
“It was the little things that ended up making a big difference, like knowing what hitters do in certain counts,” he said. “I needed to see what hitters wanted to do in certain situations, what pitches they wanted in certain counts. Without those three coaches, I would not be where I am today.”
Haworth went 5-1 with a 4.70 ERA as a sophomore before having a breakout 2017 season in which opponents hit just. 208 against him. His fastball averages in the low 90 mph range, but it’s his 12 to 6 curveball that really threw opposing batters for a loop.
“The curve is my bread and butter,” he said.
Haworth also was effective with his changeup and split-finger fastball. Haworth spent last Wednesday at Jardine’s Restaurant with his family, including his parents, Mark and Shannon, and his grandparents, Tom and Cynthia.
“My grandma is my No. 1 supporter,” Haworth said. “She’s at every game screaming her lungs out. My mom and dad drove me all those years for travel ball, and my grandpa has had a huge influence on me as well. All those years of working hard have paid off.”
Growing up, Haworth told his mom that he wanted to become a professional baseball player. To which his mom responded: “You need to have another plan if that doesn’t work out.”
No problem. Haworth majored in agricultural business at Chico State, and he still plans on opening a winery one day. He just wants to push off that day for as long as he can, because it’ll mean he’s spending his time as a professional baseball player