Hunter Cole would go out to an old field in his neighborhood growing up in South Carolina where they would have travel ball practices or play tennis ball games with all the guys in the area.
“We didn’t know what the future held at the time, but it was great being out there,” Cole said. “It wasn’t a nice field and you had to be careful, but those memories growing up really stand out to me.”
Cole made up his mind early on that he wasn’t going to turn professional. The Washington Nationals called anyway and the outfielder declined and spent three successful years at Georgia.
More than five years since getting picked in the 26th round by the San Fransisco Giants, he has turned heads at every level of the Rangers’ minor league system and has been with the Express for the last two months.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” Cole said. “The first year in an organization was a little weird at first having to learn a bunch of new faces and names, but I haven’t been treated like that guy and it’s been awesome. New places, new faces and it’s been exciting.”
Cole was one of a handful of players, including outfielder Scott Heineman and first baseman Tommy Joseph, that made the early season move from Double-A Frisco to Round Rock and have stuck with the Express.
In 53 games with the RoughRiders this season, Cole blasted eight home runs and had 28 RBIs with a .330 average, .412 on-base percentage and a .515 slugging percentage, the best on the team in all three categories at the time of his promotion.
While his slash line is a little lower in 40 games with the Express (.240/.290/.420), he’s still hit seven homers and said he’s learning how to make adjustments on the fly much faster and seeing more examples of how an MLB player carries himself.
“It’s a little more of a veteran atmosphere because you have a lot of guys with big league experience,” Cole said. “You’re pretty much on your own here. No one is going to make you do something, it’s up to you to get after it and be dedicated day in and day out and take a little bit more of a professional approach to things.”
Since joining the Rangers organization after spending the first four years of his career in the Giants organization, Cole has seen his power numbers increase. He’s hit 15 home runs between Frisco and Round Rock so far this year. His previous season high was 13 in 2016.
He said he made a few adjustments after the trade, and the results started to show in the very first at-bat of his Texas career when he homered for the RoughRiders.
“I made a few mechanical adjustments with my setup to allow me to recognize (pitches) and not have to do so much early,” Cole said. “I wasn’t getting caught in between as much and I had a lot of success in Frisco with that.”
Cole was working out early during the last offseason when he saw a San Fransisco area code pop up on his screen. It was Giants General Manager Bobby Evans.
Cole’s first thought was that he was getting released because it was too early after the World Series concluded to get into the Rule 5 Draft. Instead, he was the player to be named later in the trade that saw reliever Sam Dyson go from Texas to the West Coast during the regular season.
“It definitely felt strange to be traded, but I’m thankful for the Rangers for wanting me and going out and getting me,” he said. “I’m thankful for my time with (the Giants) and them drafting me and giving me an opportunity.”
Less than a week after he was called up to Triple-A for the first time, Cole smacked an RBI single in the bottom of the 10th inning to give Round Rock a 6-5 win over the Giants’ Triple-A team, the Sacramento RiverCats.
He played with a lot of the guys in the other dugout, but all the celebrations were with his new Texas teammates.
“That was a lot of fun, and walk-off hits are always exciting,” he said.