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San Diego Padres draft Green River's Cody Hebner
Cody Hebner had all the bases covered.
After two years pitching for the Green River Community College Gators, the 20-year-old right-hander and Auburn Mountainview graduate knew he was going to play baseball at a higher level – he just wasn’t sure how high.
Coming into the June 6 Major League Baseball amateur draft, Hebner had already hedged his bets and was entertaining a scholarship offer from Arizona State University.
When the news arrived, however, that he had been selected 143rd overall, in the fourth round, by the San Diego Padres, his choice was clear.
“I was told I’d go (in rounds) three to five, but you can never be certain, it’s just what the scouts tell you,” Hebner said. “So I was hoping, but I wasn’t banking on it. So it was a pretty big surprise when it came. I had just gotten back from school and was sitting at home and my dad had the draft up on the computer. He was tickled pink and so was my mom, who was there, too.
“I had signed a letter of intent to Arizona State, but I’m going to take this opportunity to play professionally and start this part of my life,” he continued.
For Hebner – who is expected to start his professional career with the short-season, single-A Eugene Emeralds – the selection by the Padres is the culmination of a lifetime of work.
After a stellar prep career playing ball for Glen Walker at Auburn Mountainview, where he was honored as the South Puget Sound League 3A Most Valuable Player his senior year, Hebner headed off to Green River to hone his skills.
“It was key,” Hebner said. “I was around a good group of guys both years. The coaches really helped me to develop. After my first year as a freshman, I got my feet wet and understood what the hitters were like. I expected to be able to compete this year because I did well as a freshman.”
Hebner did more than compete as a sophomore, he dominated, notching a miniscule 1.44 ERA with 95 strikeouts in 82 innings and finishing the season with a 7-1 win-loss record.
He was selected as the 2011 GRCC male student athlete of the year and chosen for the All-Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges first-team.
At Green River, Hebner said, he tried not to rely on his overpowering fastball alone. Instead, he chose to mix things up with his five-pitch repertoire.
“My fastball usually sits around 93 mph, but I got it up to 97 a couple of times this year,” he said. “I didn’t know it at the time, but they told me in the dugout, ‘you got it up to 97 that inning.’ And I said, ‘holy cow, that’s hard.’ At that level I could probably get away with using my fastball. But I like to approach like a major leaguer and work the batter and throw off-speed as well. I throw a fastball, a seam splitter, a curve ball, a change up and a slider.”
Now that he’s committed to a professional career as a ballplayer, Hebner said he hopes to follow the path of fellow-Washingtonian and Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum, who also played for Walker.
“I’m a big fan of Tim Lincecum," said Hebner. "I don’t really throw exactly like him, but if you break us both down, there are some similarities."
Hebner also added that he was pleased to have a chance to start his career in the Pacific Northwest, giving him a chance to play before friends and family, with possible games in the Tri-Cities, Yakima and Everett.
Regardless of what the future holds, Hebner said, he was just pleased to get a chance to put on a professional baseball uniform and prove that he has what it takes to make it.
“It’s always been my dream, and I’ve got a great opportunity with a great team,” he said.