Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hochman: Hazelbaker Is Talk of His Hometown

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Hochman: Hazelbaker Is Talk of His Hometown

Article excerpt

The pulse of this city is a pantry.

"All the locals go in there," explained Phil Hazelbaker, by phone from Selma, Ind.

According to the lone comment on its Facebook page, it employs "very nice people." And per a recent article in The Star Press, the pantry passed recent sanitation inspections without any violations.

"It's a little pantry here called The Corner Cupboard, and say I would walk in there now, everybody's all talking about the game," Phil Hazelbaker said. "Everybody's talking about him."

Jeremy Hazelbaker is the talk of his town. In Selma, where the population is in triple digits, the Cardinals outfielder is "all over the local Facebook in the area, and in the school, and everybody's just buzzing about it," his father said. "There are wives and kids who never watched baseball, and all of a sudden, they're watching the game, they're all interested. It's just been fun for everybody in our whole area, for a local guy, actually sticking with it, working hard and finally reaching his dream. And now it's kind of turned into everybody's dream."

You think the Jeremy Hazelbaker story is exciting? Imagine how they feel in his small-town hometown. I love that line: "turned into everybody's dream." So cool.

It's hard to predict how this Hazelbaker dream is going to end. A 28-year-old rookie, previously cut by the Dodgers organization, while picked up by the Cardinals basically just to fill a Class AA void (not because they saw something other teams didn't, in a "Cardinals Way" sort of way). Then, he can't stop hitting. Makes the big club on the last day of spring training. And it's mid-April, and he can't stop hitting.

OK, but is he Bo Hart?

Or perhaps, say, a Ryan Ludwick in the making?

Hazelbaker's age, and the trend of his minor league strikeout rate, makes it easier to think he'll come back to earth. Still, if "back to earth" is a role on a good team's 25-man roster, that's still pretty incredible for the journeyman whose journey began in Selma, Ind.

"It's been a dream come true for us as parents," Phil said. "And grandparents, all the family and friends in the neighborhood."

Asked to describe Selma, Phil said, "Well, there's only four to five little places here in town. We've got a little post office here, a little Pizza King. We have an American Legion and they're all just kind of on the main drag here. We've got our ball diamonds. So anywhere in that area, when we run across people, they're talking about it. And everybody at work is fired up about it."

Jeremy has made it, but he hasn't "made it." His parents still work. Dad is a new tooling manager at Mursix Corporation, in nearby Yorktown. Been there 32 years. And Jeremy's mom, Becky, works at Gibson Arena, a roller rink. It's been in her family for 75 years. She's worked there all her life, helping her parents out, who are aging now. …

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