It’s been two days since he’s been drafted, and Seminole State Junior College shortstop Gunner Halter is weighing his options on whether to go pro or go back to school.
Selected in the 22nd round by the Toronto Blue Jays, Halter had other options but it was the Blue Jays who were open to giving him the opportunity to play in the field and to hit. “I said no to teams during the draft because they wanted me to just pitch,” Halter told Blue Jays from Away, “My heart’s at short. I love playing short and I love hitting.”
Halter hit .440 in Division I junior college play, hitting a whopping 19 home runs and driving in 55 runs in 56 games for Seminole State in Oklahoma. Halter also pitched, throwing 20 2/3 innings and posting a 4.79 ERA but he also struck out 27 batters in that span, getting scouts interested in the 19-year-old as a pitcher. Still, it took until the 22nd round before a team was willing to give Halter a chance as a hitter. “I was predicted to go higher than I did but I got some calls and had to make some decisions and the Blue Jays called me and one of the things I really wanted to do was hit and they said that they would give me that opportunity,” Halter said. In fact, earlier in the season, Halter was told that teams were telling him “that it was going to be anywhere from the third to the 10th [round] so when it was 20-something, I was kind of shocked but at the same time, I was still happy to have the opportunity.”
Now, Halter has a big decision to make. He and the Blue Jays have discussed a bonus offer and, according to Halter, the Jays have responded that “they’d do their best to meet his request.” Halter reports that he’s expecting an offer to come in this week and then, he’ll have a decision to make. “If we agree, then I’ll sign and if I don’t then I’ll go back to Seminole and work harder and try to go higher next year.” Gunner, who was named to the NJCAA All-Region II team back in May, is ready to go back to school if it comes to that, using his draft position this year to drive him forward. “I’d say I’ll kind of just put a chip on my shoulder and it makes me want to work that much harder. If I do go back, work hard and try to go higher than I did this year. It kind of motivates me, honestly,” he said.
Halter has major league bloodlines traced back to his father, Shane. Halter was a utility player for four major league teams including four years with Detroit where he became part of major league history by playing all nine positions in one game under manager Jim Leland. Gunner was very young when his father was in the big leagues but has fond memories of those days and attributes his desire to be a professional baseball player to those early experiences. “I don’t remember much of it but I remember some of the guys in the locker room and being around the field and it was always so much fun,” he said. “I knew that it was going to be something that I wanted to do when I was older and that had a big impact on me because just being around it makes you want to do it. And I feel like that’s one of the things that makes me want to do it so much was how fun it looked when he was doing it and what I do remember, everything was good.”
In fact, Halter’s desire to be a professional player is so strong that he left Kansas State University to go to Seminole State College. According to MLB draft rules, a player in a four-year college can’t be drafted until after his third season, whereas a player at a junior college can be drafted after just one. “The reason I left K-State was because of the draft. I didn’t want to go to a 3-year school [sic] and have to wait three years to be able to have the chance to get drafted. I left there and went to the junior college so that I could have that opportunity earlier.”
The Blue Jays have given Halter that opportunity to get drafted and we’ll have to wait and see if the two sides are able to get a deal done and get Gunner’s professional career rolling.
Follow Gunner Halter on Twitter: @gunnerhalter18
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