Hinojosa is ready to step up to the plate

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Freshman shortstop C.J. Hinojosa (9) rounds the bases in the the annual Texas baseball alumni game held Feb. 2. Hinojosa had p

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

This Friday, the Longhorns will finally get their first glimpse of freshman C.J. Hinojosa, the No. 3 shortstop recruit in the nation, according to Perfect Game, who went to Klein Collins High School in Spring. After several unfortunate mishaps, Hinojosa is finally taking the field in his first collegiate series Friday against Sacramento State. The first pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m. Friday evening at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

The Longhorns will look to Hinojosa to fill several different roles this season. Hinojosa was a powerful force at the plate in high school, before a season-ending injury last year, and his talents will be a positive addition to the power-lacking Texas offense. In addition, his abilities at shortstop will help an infield that committed 70 errors in 52 games in 2012.

Hinojosa originally tried to graduate from high school early and enroll in time for last year’s spring season. However, the large academic responsibility of graduating early took a toll on Hinojosa, who decided against graduating early back in December 2011.

“It was really disappointing. I did everything that I could,” Hinojosa said of missing out on the opportunity to play for the Longhorns in 2012.

Scouts had been following him since his early playing days in high school, and when Hinojosa was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 26th round of the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft, many were wary of him ever coming to the 40 Acres. After much consideration, the promise of a good education and a chance to play under Texas head coach Augie Garrido convinced Hinojosa to become a Longhorn.

“A college education is big,” Hinojosa said. “I don’t want to have nothing to fall back on.”

Hinojosa’s senior season was cut short, however, after he underwent elective surgery to repair damage in his non-throwing shoulder. The damage, he said, was likely caused by landing too many times on his shoulder while trying to catch balls up the middle.

After having surgery and sitting out most of his senior season at Klein Collins, Hinojosa is slowly getting back to form just in time for the start of the season.

“I thought I wasn’t going to play baseball again at the level that I wanted to,” Hinojosa admitted about the process of recovering after his injury. “I didn’t know if I could come back strong enough.”

Although he is not 100 percent back to the full capabilities that he had in high school, only the little things, like speed and power at the plate, need to be tweaked.

“He’s an old baseball soul,” Garrido said. “He knows the game, knows how to play it, he has good instincts. But he’s been away from the game for a long time. He’s doing OK, he’s getting into shape. He’s quicker
and stronger.”

The coaching staff has been keeping this weekend’s starting lineup pretty close to the vest. Only part of the starting pitching staff has been announced with any certainty. However, Garrido has mentioned Hinojosa could find himself at sixth in the batting order and most expect him to start at shortstop when Sacramento State comes to town this weekend.

Until that decision is finalized, Hinojosa is just focused on becoming a better ball player and is intent on helping the Longhorns make it to Omaha.

“You got to go out there and have a good attitude and play your game,” Hinojosa said. “Coach Garrido says to carry yourself like a major league baseball player, so that’s what I am going to do.”

What he wants people to know most about him is that despite the injury, despite being recruited by major league scouts, and despite all of the attention he has received as a top-ranked recruit, he is a really hardworking baseball player who likes the simple things about the game.

“I like to hit,” Hinojosa said simply. “I like to square it up.”

Baseball: C.J. Hinojosa from The Daily Texan on Vimeo.

Published on February 15, 2013 as "Horns host Hornets".