Hicklen goes from UAB walk-on to KC draftee

Hicklen goes from UAB walk-on to KC draftee

KANSAS CITY -- University of Alabama at Birmingham head baseball coach Brian Shoop was leaving church one fall Sunday in 2013 when he received a call from outfielder Brewer Hicklen, telling Shoop he was ready to accept a scholarship offer. There was a problem, though. There was no scholarship to be given.

The Blazers had offered Hicklen a scholarship in July, but Hicklen wanted to see if he received offers to play football. The Blazers waited as long as they could on him, but they had a recruiting class to round out. So when Shoop received the call, he had to tell Hicklen there was no room for him.

"He cried," Shoop said.

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Shoop offered Hicklen a deal to walk on and receive a scholarship later. Hicklen accepted, and on Tuesday, the Royals drafted him in the seventh round, 210th overall. He is the highest Draft pick in UAB baseball history.

"I don't feel like I deserve this," Hicklen said.

The Draft concludes Wednesday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at 11 a.m. CT.

Hicklen's career at UAB began with a rotator-cuff injury that erased his freshman season, but he earned a half scholarship in 2015. The following summer, while also vying for the starting center-field job, he asked UAB football coach Bill Clark if he could compete for a spot on the football team.

UAB's football program had been cut by the university in 2014, but the the team was beginning its rebuild. Hicklen, who grew up dreaming of playing both sports in college, figured he would ask.

Hicklen, a wide receiver, earned a full scholarship to play football. He lost over 100 at-bats and most of fall baseball as a result, but Hicklen said the grueling training for football helped him gain strength and a tough mentality, which he said had benefits on the baseball field. But Hicklen will never play a college football game.

"It's going to be tough to watch those guys go out there," Hicklen said. "As crazy as it sounds, I'm going to miss the summer workouts. But God's called me to something else and I'm going to pursue that."

Hicklen notched 10 triples and 39 stolen bases in his two-year career at UAB. This season he hit .328, knocked eight home runs and had 31 RBIs while starting at center field. He also had a 19-game hitting streak and reached base in 41 straight games -- all of this while playing nearly half the season with a fractured bone in his right hand.

"Lot of ceiling, we think, left to him," Royals director of scouting Lonnie Goldberg said.

In his final collegiate game, Hicklen stood on third base with one out. After Rice's pitcher struck out a UAB batter for the second out of the inning, Shoop said the pitcher moved to the windup. Shoop told Hicklen to steal home. Without hesitation, he took off. Hecklin was safe.

Said Shoop, "He's fearless."

Wilson Alexander is a reporter for MLB.com based in Kansass City. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.