Former Hallsville pitcher Justin Slaten was keeping a close eye on the MLB Draft on Tuesday when he got the best news possible – he was being drafted by the Texas Rangers in the third round.
“My adviser was the one who called me and was basically saying, ‘Hey you’re going to get picked by the Rangers,’” Slaten said. “Obviously with the MLB Draft and the way it goes, it’s kind of crazy. Nothing is for sure but I was just kind of holding my breath for about five picks, waiting for them to get up there and ultimately, they were the ones giving me the news.”
Slaten said he would have been happy regardless of what team picked him, but the fact it was the Rangers added to the excitement.
“I was really excited, really happy,” he said. “Obviously it’s a great moment getting drafted by any team. That’s going to be the highlight of your life, of your baseball career up to this point but that’s especially the case for it being the Rangers, a team close to home, a team I grew up watching and grew up rooting for. It’s very exciting.”
“That’s really awesome,” Slaten’s high school baseball coach Scott Mitchell said. “It makes you feel really proud and excited for one of your former players to know that they’re going to continue playing and living the dream of being a professional baseball player. That’s what every young boy dreams of and Justin’s dream came true today. I’m so excited for him and his family to be drafted by the Texas Rangers, and to be right here, local where they can see him is a bonus.”
Mitchell said Slaten’s story serves as a good example to teach kids to keep pursuing their dreams.
“To come out of the little town of Hallsville and be drafted into the third round of the Major League draft, it goes to show that it’s important for you to keep pursuing your dreams,” Mitchell said. “The key is working and obviously Justin has God-given talent but he’s had to develop that talent. He’s had to take that parable where God gives everybody talent and it’s a matter of what you do with that. Justin has used his talents and has worked on it and it’s paying off for him not just financially but it’s paying off dream-wise. It’s a dream come true and it just comes to show that you can do it, man. It can happen to anybody who puts in the time and work and use your talent.”
Slaten graduated from Hallsville High School in 2016 where he went 6-5 from the mound and his Bobcats finished the year with a 24-10 record overall and a trip to the quarterfinals. That season, he pitched 75 innings and came away with three saves, 105 strikeouts and only 18 walks to finish with an ERA of 1.49. He missed his junior year due to injury.
His sophomore year, the Bobcats went to the semifinals and in 2014, his freshman year, Hallsville went to the state tournament.
In his three years at New Mexico, he has pitched 182.2 innings where he has given up 191 runs on 112 hits, 82 walks and has struck out 187 batters and earned a record of 9-16 on the mound.
“I guess I would say is that no matter what people are telling you, just keeping working hard,” Slaten said. “I was a guy who was going to junior college up until my senior year in high school and ultimately I ended up going to New Mexico.
“So I just continued to work hard and continued to not listen to what everyone had to say about me and I went out there every single day to try to better myself. I knew that talent would carry the rest.”
“Right now, I’m just really excited,” he added. “I think they (the Rangers) have a good young team and I’m excited that they saw me as part of their future.”