Where are they now?
He held the Northwoods League record for most home runs in a season with 20 until this past season, and now he is showcasing his power for the St. Louis Cardinals.
The fourth-round draft pick was called up to the big leagues in May. In his first at-bat, he hit a home run. Only one Cardinal has hit more home runs than DeJong in his rookie season – Albert Pujols. He is only the 3rd Cardinals rookie to ever hit at least 20 home runs and at least 20 doubles. His success at-bat moved him to third in the Cardinals batting lineup and to shortstop. His power at the plate earned him the nickname “DeGone”. He was named National League Rookie of the Month in July – and he just turned 24.
The pre-med student from Illinois State always wanted to play professional baseball, but he was fully prepared to go to medical school and become a doctor if that dream did not pan out. DeJong went undrafted out of high school and did not receive an athletic scholarship. He even thought about going to Wisconsin, a university that does not even have a baseball team. Instead, he chose Illinois State after the coaches showed interest in him walking on to the baseball team.
The baseball dream came true as DeJong got drafted in the 38th round by the Pittsburgh Pirates after his junior year of college. He did not sign, but the following year, he drove to Busch Stadium to meet with the St. Louis Cardinals. He could not even work out due to a broken thumb, but the pre-med student impressed the scouting director with how smart he was. Two days later, he was drafted.
DeJong is batting .278 with 22 doubles, 24 home runs, 60 RBI, and a .520 slugging percentage for the Cardinals. Of any Cardinals players, he has the highest average exit velocity and his 24 home runs lead the team. His slugging percentage is sixth among all rookies and he is tied for fourth among all rookies in home runs.
DeJong’s success is no surprise to Wisconsin Woodchucks fans. DeJong was a superstar in Wausau in the 2014 season. He holds the Woodchucks records for most RBIs in a season (61), most home runs in a season (20), and most extra base hits in a season (35). He was named to the Northwoods League All-Star Game, Major League Dreams Showcase, and Post-Season All-Star Team in 2014. He helped the Woodchucks to their most recent playoff appearance.
He’s had success wherever he’s been, hitting .430 as a senior at Antioch High School in Illinois and being named all-area, All-Lake County First-Team, All-North Suburban Conference First-Team, and team MVP. He also graduated cum laude, was named the science department’s “most outstanding student,” named the senior class’ “most outstanding boy,” and was a member of the National Honor Roll.
As a Redbird at Illinois State, he had a .326 batting average, 23 homers, 113 RBI, 42 doubles, a .547 slugging percentage, and a .427 on-base percentage through three seasons. He also had a 3.76 GPA.
Although it appears as though DeJong’s back-up plan of going to medical school would’ve worked out just fine, it is clear that his baseball dream was meant to be. DeJong’s no stranger to success, and we are excited to see it continue for him in his professional career.