LAKELAND Fla., – Joey Pankake could have started his professional baseball career five years ago.
The 22-year old Detroit Tigers prospect was drafted in 2010 by the Texas Rangers in the 42nd round straight out of high school and had to make a choice between signing or going to school.
Pankake declined the offer to make a living off the sport he had been playing since he could walk in order to get a college education at the University of South Carolina.
“I knew I wanted to go to school so it wasn’t a tough decision for me, I knew I was going to go to school,” said Pankake, sitting on a bench outside of the clubhouse at Tigertown, Detroit’s spring training facility. “I had a good opportunity to play for a great college.”
At USC he could continue to play the game that he loved at the same time he laid the foundation for a life after baseball.
Pankake spent his three years of school taking full advantage of both the academics and athletics only available to him in the university setting.
“I was a double major in marketing and management for business,” said Pankake. “They have a great business school there so hopefully I have something to fall back on.”
The extra time at the amateur level also helped him develop skills beneficial to his career on the field. During the 2014 college season, he made the SEC All-Defensive Team, and became the 26th person in USC history to reach 200 career hits.
Pankake finished the year with a batting average of .301 with five home runs, 11 doubles and 31 runs batted in. He re-entered the draft in 2014 this time going in the seventh round to the Tigers.
“I kind of knew what to expect a little more kinda going through the process right after high school,” said Pankake. “I felt like it was my year to sign so I was a little more willing to sign this year.”
On June 19, 2014, he made his debut with the single-A Connecticut Tigers, two days after signing with Detroit. Pankake appeared in 64 games, hit .292 with two homeruns, 16 doubles and 36 RBI.
Looking back at how he got to where he is today, Pankake felt like he made the choices that were right for him.
“I went to school and I enjoyed my time there, I don’t regret it at all,” Pankake said. “I made the right decision, I’m at a great organization now so it seems to have all worked out.”
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