In 2019, the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) noted roughly 487,097 students play baseball at the high school level, with only 35,460 continuing to play collegiately. Only 775 of these athletes—a microscopic 0.15%—wind up getting drafted by a Major League Baseball (MLB) team.
Oklahoma Christian University’s Hunter Markwardt, who was drafted in the 13th round of the 2019 Major League Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies, has defied those odds. Initially cut from his high school team, Markwardt enrolled at Abilene Christian University in 2015 to continue his baseball career. After two years as a Wildcat, Markwardt was forced to find a new home after a recurring hamstring injury resulted in a cut scholarship.
Markwardt joined the Oklahoma Christian baseball team in the fall of 2017 and made an instant impact, leading the team in multiple offensive categories and claiming multiple accolades.
In a recent interview with the Talon, Markwardt shared thoughts on his experience thus far:
Q: What are a few things you picked up from Oklahoma Christian, either from coaches or teammates, that have helped you at the professional level?
A passion for the game was one thing I picked up right when I got to campus during the fall of 2017. The positive environment and enjoyment Coach Cobble brought to the facility every day made us, as players, have fun and want to play for him when spring came around. When Coach Tettleton joined the staff this past year, he taught us what the true meaning of having a work ethic is. He told us he would put in as much time as we were willing to put in, but he wasn’t going to come find us. He would work as hard with us as we were willing to work. Learning to work like that carries over to any level of play, as well as any sport.
Q: What keeps you going after facing continual adversity in regards to recurring injury and playing time?
God has definitely been my main driving force. After pulling my hamstring for a third time, I knew no matter what happened, there was a plan much greater than myself, and no matter what happened, I was going to be just fine. Staying true to the path he put me on has helped ease the process for sure. Proving people wrong is another big factor. I lost spots at both the high school and college level. It’s a testament to how far hard work can get you.
Q: What was it like playing in your first professional game and accomplishing a feat few will ever get to experience?
There were a lot of nerves and emotions I can’t put into words. It’s a feeling of knowing everything you’ve played for since you were five has brought you to this and going out and showing teammates, fans and coaches that you belong on opening night—it’s a blast.
Q: What are some words of wisdom you would like to express to other Division II athletes trying to follow a similar path?
Never set a limit on how hard you’re willing to work to get where you want. I’m so thankful I’m not in a position wondering ‘if only I would or wouldn’t have done this’. The thought of regret and also wanting to be the best version of myself has helped me so much. And if you can play, people will find you. There are always eyes watching, so make the most of your situation, whatever it may be.