Reliever Tom Hackimer's successful pro debut only positive for C.R. Kernels in 12-1 loss to Beloit

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CEDAR RAPIDS — It was a miserable night for the Cedar Rapids Kernels, with one exception. Tom Hackimer’s professional baseball debut went just fine.

The relief pitcher threw 1 1/3 hitless innings in C.R.’s 12-1 drubbing at the hands of Beloit before 3,948 fans at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

The submarining right-hander faced four guys, walked one, but had him erased on a double-play grounder. Hackimer was the parent Minnesota Twins’ fourth-round draft pick a little over a week ago.

“I was excited to go out there and get the first one out of the way,” he said. “Not really any nerves there. After I got the first out, I kind of settled in, and it got a little easier.”

Hackimer, who turns 22 on Tuesday, is the ultimate underdog story. He was a shorstop in high school in suburban New York City and went to St. John’s University as a walk-on. The coaches there told him he could try and play infield for them if he wanted, but saw something else in him.

“I was a shortstop in high school, didn’t pitch at all. I couldn’t hit, had a good arm,” he said. “The coaches at St. John’s saw me and thought I’d be a good sidearmer, so I tried it. They told me I could try playing shortstop there, but I knew it wasn’t a good idea. I went out to the bullpen, threw a couple from a higher arm slot. Then I dropped down, and the rest is history.”

He flourished, obviously, enough to get drafted. Though he’s smaller at 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, he is still able to hit 90-plus miles per hour with his fastball, with the submarine style certainly tough on right-handed hitters.

Ironically, he came in to relieve former St. John’s teammate Cody Stashak (4-5), who had a rough start and took the loss.

“He was the only positive tonight,” Kernels Manager Jake Mauer said. “He was aggressive, went after people. Looks like he’s got a little bit of stuff. I’d say he reminds me of (former Kernels reliever) Trevor Hildenberger from last year. This guy’s slider might be a little bit better, too.”

Hackimer said he patterns his delivery after Los Angeles Angels reliever Joe Smith.

“I’m glad I am here, to skip over (Rookie-level) Elizabethton,” he said. “I’m sure it’s a lovely place and everything, but I was glad to be able to come up here and play at a higher level.”

The Kernels were outhit, 12-4, unable to do anything against Beloit starting pitcher Dustin Hurlbutt and three relievers. They managed all of four baserunners, three singles and a solo home run from J.J. Fernandez.

The teams conclude their three-game series Sunday afternoon at 2:05. Newcomer Lachlan Wells, a 19-year-old Australian, is scheduled to be the starting pitcher for Cedar Rapids.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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