Hannahan selected by Detroit in the third round

Anthony Maggio

While waiting to speak to Gopher-turned-Tiger Jack Hannahan, happy chatter, laughter and even a shout of “show me the money” could be heard in the background of his family’s home in St. Paul. Friends and family had reason to celebrate.

Hannahan, a junior third baseman for the Gophers, was drafted in the third round as the 87th pick by the Detroit Tigers.

“I feel great,” Hannahan said. “I’m really excited. This is a dream come true.”

Hannahan will meet with team officials today to discuss a contract, upon which he will be sent to one of the Tigers’ single A squads in Oneonta, N.Y. or Lakeland, Fla.

“They make an offer, then I make an offer and we meet in the middle,” Hannahan said. “And if not, I’ll be at Minnesota again.”

Hannahan, named Big Ten Player of the Year this season, overcame problems with alcohol and enjoyed his best season as a Gopher.

His decision to stay sober 10 months ago was one Hannahan made to help make his life better. Did he think it would lead to this?

“No, not at all,” Hannahan said. “After I made my decision, whatever happened, happened and I was just going to try my best. It was definitely worth it and I’m going to continue to do it.”

“I’m so proud of him because of what he has been through,” Minnesota head coach John Anderson said. “I can use some of the challenges in his life and how he has dealt with them as examples and strength for other people to challenge themselves and deal with their adversity in a positive way.”

Hannahan’s life has always revolved around baseball.

“I’ve been playing since I was in diapers,” he said.

His favorite baseball player is Paul Molitor, and thus far, Hannahan has followed in Molitor’s footsteps.

Hannahan graduated from Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, the same program that produced Molitor. Both players were standout Gophers, and now Hannahan is getting a shot at the major leagues, just like his boyhood hero.

Molitor is pleased he has had a positive influence on Hannahan.

“I am humbled,” Molitor said. “You don’t really set out to play professionally to have people someday emulate what you’ve done, but it’s something that I certainly appreciate and don’t take lightly.”

Since coming to Minnesota, Hannahan has put up impressive numbers, but really came into his own this season.

“As a player it has just been amazing how much he has developed,” teammate Mike Kobow said. “He’s always had great tools, but he has really smoothed himself out to be an outstanding player.”

Hannahan led the team in runs, hits, doubles, home runs, and RBI. He led the conference in runs, hits, home runs, total bases, and slugging percentage. His most important contributions, however, went beyond the numbers.

“He was the true leader both on and off the field of this team,” teammate Ben Birk said. “He brings so much life and energy to the team, it’s a credit to what he’s been through to get to the point he is today.”

What is obvious when speaking to his teammates is that Hannahan has made a significant impact on all those he has interacted with.

“I don’t think anyone on the team has anything bad to say about Jack,” Kobow said. “He’s one of the most well-liked players on the team. He always has a smile on his face. He’s a great team leader.”

Like his players, Anderson speaks of Hannahan only with praise and endearment.

“Coaching Jack has been rewarding,” Anderson said. “I’ve always enjoyed Jack because he’s always been honest with me.”

In regards to Hannahan’s long-term professional goals, he’s not putting too much pressure on himself.

“I haven’t really looked that far,” he said. “I just stick to nice and short goals I can accomplish.”

Thus far, he has achieved more than most players will in a lifetime. This season he earned team MVP honors, made the All-Big Ten first team, and was named Big Ten Player of the Year. However, Hannahan feels his greatest accomplishment is getting the chance to play for Minnesota.

“Growing up, everyone in Minnesota looks up to the Golden Gophers no matter what the sport,” Hannahan said. “Playing here has been a dream come true.

“It’s a great honor to have your name up next to those other guys who have won those awards. But I’m so fortunate to be playing under John Anderson and Rob Fornasiere. It’s just been a great experience.”

At the same time, Anderson has been fortunate to have Hannahan as a pupil.

“His story will be an inspirational one and a great teaching tool as time goes on,” Anderson said.

Hannahan’s story, one of sacrifice and dedication combined with great talent, is just beginning.

“I hope that he has a chance to fulfill his dream of playing in the major leagues,” Molitor said, adding that Hannahan has more power at the plate than he did.

“I think he’s just trying to be nice,” Hannahan said with a satisfied chuckle.

Anthony Maggio welcomes comments at [email protected]