FORT WAYNE – Instead of being wide-eyed, Hunter Renfroe’s eyes might have been drooping a little during his debut with the TinCaps on Saturday.
That’s because the first-round draft pick out of Mississippi State got up at 3:40 a.m. and flew from Eugene, Ore., to Portland to Indianapolis to Fort Wayne before finally arriving at Parkview Field about 2 1/2 hours before the 7:05 p.m. first pitch against the Drayton Dragons.
It’s the same mental approach at the plate and know that even though I did wake up at 3:40 in the morning, just go up there and have energy and compete my heart out, Renfroe said shortly before making the start in right field. I am trying to meet everybody and fit in and get to know them.
Renfroe’s debut was a tough one as the TinCaps lost their fourth straight game against the Dragons 7-6 in front of 8,009 fans. Renfroe was 2 for 4 with a single, double and an RBI walk.
Fort Wayne (60-57, 17-31 second half) was swept in South Bend the previous three days.
It didn’t go any better against the Dragons, despite a late rally.
Dayton (55-63, 27-22 second half) scored five runs on seven hits in the fifth inning to rally from a two-run deficit.
The Dragons had five straight hits in the inning off losing pitcher Walker Weickel (3-6), who gave up 11 hits and seven earned runs in 4 2/3 innings.
Rodney Daal, who had three hits, hit a solo home run to left and Gabriel Quintana had a sacrifice fly in the ninth to cut the deficit to 7-6.
The rapid rise through the San Diego Padres system has been the norm for Renfroe since playing for Mississippi State in the College World Series.
Renfroe, 21, who was picked No. 13 overall, batted third for the TinCaps. At Mississippi State, Renfroe hit .352 with 15 doubles, two triples, 15 home runs, 58 RBI and 51 runs scored in 59 games.
His 15 home runs were tied for 14th most in NCAA Division I. He earned All-American honors and led the Bulldogs to their first-ever College World Series Finals, losing in the finals to UCLA.
The World Series is probably one of the best things best things I have ever done in my life, Renfroe said. It’s one of the highest moments and one of the lowest losing to UCLA. It was heartbreaking, but on the other hand we were in the final two and that’s pretty special.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Renfroe started his professional career with Short-Season-A Eugene on July 11 and hit .308 in 25 games with four home runs and 18 RBI.
The Mississippi native played in the Northwest League All-Star Game last week and came through with the game-winning hit in the ninth inning and was second in the home run derby.
I really enjoyed my time in Eugene, and I had a great time there, Renfroe said. It helped me to step into my professional career.
Renfroe takes the place of outfielder Corey Adamson, who was moved to Advanced-A Lake Elsinore.
You try to move up in the organization or anything is good, and I am just excited to get started, Renfroe said. It’s something that is up to the head office. I just have to go out there and perform to the best of my ability, and they will make the decisions on whether I move up or down. I am in this organization for one reason, and that is to play to the best of my ability, and I hope to make it to the big leagues one day.