Nebraska senior left-hander Zach Hirsch returned home to St. Charles this week with a good idea he'd be selected in this weekend's Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
Hirsch was elated Saturday afternoon when his hunch came true, although his destination still offered some novelty.
The Milwaukee Brewers drafted the St. Charles North product in the 19th round, 566th overall. That's right, the Brewers.
"Funny thing is, I had talked to a pretty good amount of teams during the season and then in the past few days," Hirsch said. "The Brewers weren't one of them. I was kind of surprised but at the same time extremely excited that they did call."
Hirsch, in the self-described best shape of his life at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, has been feeling pretty good lately, anyway.
Recovered from a wrist injury that curtailed much of his junior year, he compiled a 5-2 record and 1.72 ERA in his final collegiate season, striking out 50 in 52 1/3 innings over 31 relief appearances.
The Cornhuskers advanced to their first NCAA Tournament regional since 2008, losing to Cal State Fullerton last weekend.
"We had a pretty sweet season at Nebraska, so I've had some pretty excting times the past couple weeks and this definitely stacks up there with those," Hirsch said.
Brewers brass called Hirsch Saturday afternoon to offer brief congratulations, and planned to talk later about the specifics of his signing and potential first assignment in pro ball.
The Brewers have an affiliate in the Class-A Midwest League in Appleton, Wisconsin, but Hirsch figures he is more likely to head to their Short-A club in Helena, Montana.
In any event, simply being in this position excites him.
Hirsch redshirted his first season after February 2010 elbow surgery, and had developed into a reliable starter by 2012. While his role shifted to relief the following season, he still was feeling strong about his development before an injury to his right wrist sidelined him for the last 31 games of Nebraska's season.
He devoted the offseason to adding upper-body strength and "making some minor mechanical adjustments." Hirsch's fastball hovered around 88 to 92 mph for much of the spring, and he found the added arm speed, when applied to his curveball, created far more break.
"It kind of developed out of nowhere," Hirsch said.
Hirsch, who was in graduate school after earning a finance degree in May 2013, doesn't foresee much haggling during negotiation. He said he would embrace either a starting or relief role, whatever the Brewers want him to do.
"In this time in my career, all you can really ask for is an opportunity," Hirsch said. "That's the key thing you really want, to move through a system as fast as possible. So hopefully that'll be the case."
The Kansas City Royals drafted Butler junior left-hander Eric Stout, a St. Francis alumnus from Wheaton, in the 13th round, 393rd overall.