Ragin’ Cajun baseball’s rich tradition looks to add another chapter on Wednesday during the MLB draft.
With just five rounds, only the cream of the crop will get selected.
For years, Ragin’ Cajun shortstop Hayden Cantrelle has dreamed of playing baseball for a living.
“This is what I’ve been thinking about ever since I was a kid,” Cantrelle says. “When I was seven playing baseball games on my GameCube, I wanted to be a big leaguer.”
That dream could turn into a reality over the next few days. Cantrelle is among the top 120 draft prospects according to MLB.com, ranking as one of the top 15 shortstops in this year’s draft class.
“As a junior, historically it’s your best opportunity to make any money,” Cantrelle says. “But I call it opportunity. It’s not really about money. It’s about having the fairest opportunity to make it to the big leagues.”
That opportunity does look a bit different this year, with the COVID-19 pandemic cutting his junior season short and closing all gyms and training facilities for months.
Cantrelle had to adapt to stay on top of his preparation, working out with his brother in their home gym.
“For the first time in my life, I haven’t had access to a weight room when I wanted it,” Cantrelle says. “It’s been a lot of push ups and sit ups honestly.”
Cantrelle is confident his ability to adapt, on and off the diamond, will help propel him to the next level.
“I think it’s energy and adaptability,” Cantrelle says. “I think I’m a guy that can do anything for an organization. I think I get the best out of my teammates, not in a hardo way but in like a let’s have fun type of way. I wanna be known for the guy that’s always having fun.”
One of the pivotal moments of his college career was a summer in Cape Cod, competing in baseball’s premiere summer league.
“I was playing with the best players in the country, and I wasn’t hanging,” Cantrelle says. “When I came back to school that next year, I had a lot to work on. I invested that entire season to work my butt off and get better.”
The drive to get better is a lesson learned from his dad, Kevin, who played for the Cajuns from 1991-1994. Hayden grew up around UL baseball and was highly recruited coming out of high school, having offers to LSU and Mississippi State. But he wanted to play for the home team.
“For me it was a fit thing,” Cantrelle says. “Would I rather represent a school out of the state or out of my hometown? Or would I rather try to take my home community to as far as we could possibly go.”
Cantrelle’s dream could take him pretty far with a call from an MLB organization in the next few days. He’s excited about the next step and his draft possibilities, but he’s a junior which means he still has a year of eligibility if he’s not happy with the results of Wednesday’s draft.