ANNA — As one of the top collegiate baseball prospects in the country, Anna junior Rawley Hector has experienced plenty of highlight-reel moments. But one of the best to date had to be on the evening of July 21 when he took the mound at Chicago’s Wrigley Field and pitched two scoreless, hitless innings against some of the top 17-and-under players in the country.
The occasion was Game 1 of USA Baseball’s 17U National Team Development Program, a four-game inter-squad series played over six days in and around Chicago. Other stops included the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and Miller Park in Milwaukee, home of Major League Baseball’s Brewers.
This talented group of players — divided into Stars and Stripes teams — eventually split the series at two games apiece. Hector started for the Stars at Wrigley, striking out one, walking one and assisting in breaking two bats. The Stars went on to win that game, 9-3, and took game three, 11-4, at Northwestern. The Stripes prevailed in games two and four by counts of 9-5 at Notre Dame and 8-3 at Miller Park.
Hector’s family — father Joey Hector, mom Amy Hector and sister Maddie Hector — were on hand to witness his memorable turn at Wrigley.
“I’m getting chills right now thinking about it,” Rawley Hector said at Coyote Stadium Friday morning, two hours after his return flight to DFW. “To be honest with you, I didn’t really feel anything. It was all adrenalin. It didn’t really hit me until I went to the bullpen that I was pitching at Wrigley Field. It was awesome, just getting out there with ‘USA’ across your chest and getting to start at Wrigley. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Rawley Hector’s first pitch at the venerable 105-year-old venue was a 91 mph fastball for a strike.
“That’s always the toughest pitch to get over the plate,” he said. “First-pitch strikes are always a good sign. It sets the tone, that’s for sure. The hitters are the best in the country. They’re definitely the toughest guys to get out. There’s future first-rounders everywhere. I was just honored to be able to face them and get the chance to compete against them. … It’s preparing us to play internationally. It’s also a time to learn and grow and become a better baseball player and a better man.”
The coaches too, he said, are some of the best around.
“You’ve got Major League Baseball players, you’ve got former major leaguers, college coaches,” Rawley Hector said. “They’re telling you what you can do to get better and succeed at the next level.”
Rawley Hector also tossed two scoreless innings with a “K” at Northwestern after batting DH at Notre Dame and drawing a pair of walks. Miller Park was the first indoor field he had experienced.
“It was a really cool set-up,” he said, noting he got to meet Brewers star Christian Yelich, the reigning National League MVP. “Being able to shake an MVP’s hand, that’s always a dream come true right there.”
On July 24, Rawley Hector and his teammates took in a Chicago White Sox game at Guaranteed Rate Field, a contest won by the Miami Marlins, 2-0.
For those who may not know, Rawley Hector’s father is also the head baseball coach at Anna. After their big night at Wrigley, Rawley Hector’s family explored Chicago for a day then started the drive home at 9 a.m. on July 23. Completing the journey at 2 a.m. the following day, Joey Hector was at Coyote Stadium bright and early that morning for Anna ISD football camp. “Crazy” is how he described watching his son pitch at Wrigley.
“It’s the kind of deal where you just kind of take it in,” Joey Hector said. “You don’t know if you’re ever going to see that again. That’s not something a lot of people get to do, which is why we took the time to make the trip up there. … It’s an emotional thing to talk about. Every time I think of it I get a bit teared up. We didn’t talk at all before the game started. I saw him afterward and that was about it. … It was normal Rawley - just, ‘I’ve got to do a better job of this and this and this.’ It’s a cool experience but it’s also one where they critique you pretty hard. They’re trying to get you better, trying to get you prepared to represent the USA. It’s what he loves to do. So for him, for us, for the family, it’s kind of icing on the cake to do it at Wrigley Field. … What an awesome opportunity USA Baseball has provided for Rawley.”
As for this 17U team, Joey Hector was impressed.
“They’re so good,” the Anna coach said. “The fastballs, I think, were anywhere from 88 to 96. … The lineups pitchers were having to face, it’s a Who’s Who in American 16U-17U baseball. It’s a pretty good squad, I’ll say that.”
In 2017, Rawley Hector won a coveted spot on USA Baseball’s 15U National Team that traveled to Cartagena, Colombia, for the COPABE Pan American “AA” Championships. There, battling 11 top teams from Central and South America and the Caribbean, Rawley Hector and his teammates claimed the gold medal.
For Anna last season, Rawley Hector earned First-Team All-State honors at shortstop as chosen by the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association. District 11-4A’s Offensive MVP as well, he hit .621 and posted a .734 on-base percentage. All told, Rawley Hector belted six doubles, five triples and six home runs en route to 27 RBI, 42 runs scored and 24 stolen bases.
The 6-2, 180-pound right-hander is verbally-committed to Texas A&M. He’s also been ranked as high as No. 1 among Texas high school prospects for 2021 and eighth in the nation by Prep Baseball Report.
Rawley Hector played Select ball with Dulin’s Dodgers Prime again this summer but hopes to make MLB’s Prospect Development Pipeline next year.
For now, he has two more high school seasons left — and Anna Coyote fans are certainly pleased about that.
“It’s been a blast, playing with your best friends,” Rawley Hector said of his AHS days. “And you’ve got all your friends in school coming out to watch you play baseball. I love it. I’m really looking forward to my junior year. I feel like we’re going to have a good squad coming back – good returning guys and good upcoming freshmen. … Hopefully, we’ll make a run next year.”