Every athlete, no matter the skill or ability, has goals and is determined to make those dreams become a reality. Joey Hawkins is one of those people who created his own path, and is determined to make the most of his opportunities.
Hawkins, who is from Whitby, Ontario, has already accomplished more than some ever do. And that is a testament to his hard work and determination.
I had the please of speaking with Joey, and during our conversation, we bridged the gap between two generations of Canadian athletes. While we may be thousands of miles apart, and separated by countries, the universal baseball language allowed us to discuss his past, present, and future goals, which I am certain he will fulfill.
The GMs Perspective: Originally from Whitby Ontario, you were drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 2011. You didn’t you sign with the Royals, but decided to accept a scholarship to Missouri State, a Division 1 NCAA School. Why?
Joey Hawkins: My senior year in high school I started playing on Team Canada, and travelling with the Ontario Blue Jays quite a bit. I had always been a pretty good player growing up, but I was undersized and not the greatest hitter. They looked at me, more or less, as a defensive guy. I ended up having a decent spring and ran well for the scouts, and played good defense, ultimately I was rewarded by being drafted by the Royals.
I knew I wasn’t ready for professional baseball both physically and mentally. I chose to get my education paid for and started a new chapter in my life.
GMs: Talking to other pros, the part about not being ready physically or mentally is true is most cases.
JH: Getting a little taste of it playing on team Canada really opens your eyes. Playing in the instructional league and extended spring going up against some pro teams, you realize it’s a grind, and you really have to be ready for it. Being realistic is the main thing.
GMs: What are you currently taking in school and what are your plans once your college career is over?
JH: I’m majoring in sports administration with a minor in business. Whenever I’m done playing I’d like to stay in the game, whether it’s in scouting, or coaching. I’d much rather stay in the business side of sports. I’m really intrigued by player trades, free agency, and follow minor league baseball a lot.
GMs: What is your current role on the team and how do you see your junior and senior seasons shaping up
JH: I came in as a freshman. Our team was very talented made it to the Miami Regionals. Even though I didn’t play too much, it was an eye-opener. Last year I played third base as a sophomore. Despite having an up and down year, we were in the Top 25 for a little bit, unfortunately we weren’t able to hold on.
Coming into this year I really want to have a successful year as a team, I think we have a lot of good pieces in place. I’ve been nominated as team captain, and moved back to shortstop as well.
My goal is to lead by example.
GMs: What is the biggest difference you find from baseball in Canada to baseball in the US
JH: The biggest thing I’ve noticed is how competitive it is. Everyone at this level (Division 1) is really good. You’ve gotta come to play everyday. Some days back home you wouldn’t have the best competition, but here, whether it’s at practice when your competing against your teammates, everyone is very capable at any given time.
GMs: How were you, as a Canadian, accepted when you stepped on campus for the first time?
JH: I got along well with all my teammates and other athletes on campus. They looked at me and saw someone who works hard. Playing for the Ontario Blue Jays you’re taught to work hard and have a good attitude.
I didn’t have the best abilities when I got here, and wasn’t the best player or recruit, but I came to work everyday and I know everyone appreciated it.
GMs: Were they familiar with the caliber of baseball with Baseball Canada or Team Ontario?
JH: We play the Blue Jays every fall, so I got a chance to play against Missouri State three times when I was on the Blue Jays. The Jays are very well known, so is Baseball Canada’s reputation. They have produced great players, and my teammates are familiar with them also.
GMs: I understand you played your summer collegiate ball up in my neck of the woods; Thunder Bay. How was that experience?
JH: The Canadians are not too familiar with it. You have to take it the right way. You’re going to be playing in hot weather everyday, in front of a few hundred people at best. Some of the stadiums aren’t the best either.
In my two summers I’ve met some really great people and made friends that I still talk to from all over of the country.
If I was going to give advice to a young Canadian who’s going to play summer collegiate ball, it would be to have fun and cherish each and every opportunity you have to step on that field. You never know when it could be your last.
I played 60 games up in Thunder Bay for the Border Cats. I really enjoyed it and felt like I became a better ballplayer when all is said and done.
GMs: Any suggestions to other aspiring Canadian baseball players looking to take that next step.
JH: I always looked up to other guys in high school. It’s always good to pay attention and have an open-mind. It’s a whole new chapter in your life, it’s not Canada, your mom and dad isn't there anymore, and you can’t go home for the regular holidays.
Guys on my team will be my lifelong friends. I’ve also created some great networking opportunities when it comes to looking for a job in the future.
At the same time, I’m playing the game I love. Whether you hit. 220 or .400, you have to remember that you don’t have many games left.
Have fun doing it, because could it be over at any time.