For a while, C.J. Hinojosa had no idea where he would play baseball.
The highly touted Klein Collins High School shortstop decided to graduate from a high school a semester early to either enroll at Texas or pursue a professional baseball career. When Hinojosa was unable to handle the additional academic responsibilities, he decided to play out his high school senior season.
But with the possibility of his high school coach, who kicked him off the baseball team after learning of Hinojosa’s decision, not taking him back, Hinojosa and his parents explored nearby private schools. Once Hinojosa and his coach settled their differences, however, he was set to return to the Tigers squad. As for where he’ll be after this season, his stepfather and Klein Collins baseball booster club president Patrick Navarro claim the chances of Hinojosa playing at Texas next year are “85 to 90 percent.”
“If you would have asked the same question a month ago, I would have said his chances of coming to UT were about 20 percent,” Navarro said.
But now he’s changed his mind, Navarro said.
“I asked him, ‘So what are you feeling?’ and his response to me was, ‘If I don’t get [2011 No. 8 overall pick] Francisco Lindor money [$2.9 million], then there’s no question I’m going to Texas,” he said.
Hinojosa‘s daily routine while trying to skip his final semester of high school was a grueling one. He would attend his regular high school classes from around 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., followed by two to three hours devoted to Texas Tech online classes — English on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, along with precalculus and physics on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Coupled with seeing a tutor two days a week and workouts, Hinojosa’s schedule became too overwhelming.
“He was sick, he was stressed and he couldn’t handle the school work,” said Navarro. “We were so disappointed in the coaches. C.J. didn’t want to go to any other school, though. He wanted to stay there with the guys he had played with for all four years. It was kind of a trying time but it worked itself out.”
When Hinojosa realized he wouldn’t be able to complete the coursework necessary to graduate early, he had to mend the relationship he had with his high school head coach, Miguel Carlos, who kicked Hinojosa off the baseball team after learning he wanted to leave before his senior season at Klein Collins.
“When he told me wanted to forego the second half of his senior season to go to UT, I was definitely upset with the decision,” Carlos said. “He was removed from my baseball class because I needed to find me a shortstop. He didn’t like that decision but understood it.”
Following a heart-to-heart conversation between Carlos and his shortstop, as well as a visit to Hinojosa’s house by the third-year head coach, the path was clear for Hinojosa to play for Carlos again. Hinojosa, who also considered playing at USC and Cal State Fullerton, also looks like he’s settled the issue of where he’ll play after his high school days are over. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Hinojosa is solidly committed to Texas.
“He’s an advanced baseball player,” said Texas head baseball coach Augie Garrido. “He’s advanced over people his same age at this point in time.”
Hinojosa, by his count, hit 26 home runs as a junior last season. He began playing baseball when he was four and starting competing in select baseball tournaments at age 8. Since then, Hinojosa has developed into a bona fide professional shortstop prospect and a formidable presence in the batter’s box.
“[He was the] best high school hitter I’ve seen in a long time,” Carlos said of Hinojosa. “You know how they talk about how the game slows down for kids? I think that’s what happens with this kid. He just sees everything at a different level.”
Carlos is in charge of a Klein Collins baseball program that has provided several players to Texas over the years. Senior pitchers Sam Stafford, who was recently lost for the season with a shoulder injury, and Austin Dicharry played for the Tigers before suiting up for the Longhorns. The Klein Collins football team also sent offensive lineman Garrett Greenlea to the 40 Acres.
Meanwhile, Hinojosa will be joined by third baseman Austin Dean and left-handed pitcher Cory Geisler on the Texas baseball squad next season.
“It’s a great problem to have, I’m not going to lie to you,” said Carlos. “I’ve enjoyed seeing these kids and watching how far they’ve come. They were playing at a high level when they came in. They were starting varsity players their freshman year.”
Klein Collins was swept by Lufkin in the first round of the playoffs last season but Carlos said he fully expects his team to compete in the state tournament held in Round Rock this June.
As for Hinojosa, expect him to be competing for the Longhorns next year — even if he didn’t expect to be a month ago.