Jaxon Hallmark isn't thinking about the MLB Draft anymore.
Nebraska's first-team All-Big Ten outfielder signed a free agent contract with the Houston Astros on Wednesday, a most effective cure for a humbling draft experience.
20 rounds of not hearing his name called caught Hallmark off-guard. It surprised some draft pundits, too. After all, Hallmark led the Big Ten champions in batting average (.342), home runs (10) and steals (16) in 2021.
His impact went beyond the bat. He flew around center field, making diving catches an abnormally regular occurrence. He played with swagger — Husker fans won't soon forget his stomp of home plate after hitting a leadoff home run in Game 2 of the Nebraska-Arkansas trilogy in the Fayetteville Regional.
Put simply, he's fun to watch.
On July 12, when the draft concluded, he tweeted a video of himself smirking during a Husker game earlier in the season, a not-so-subtle memo to front offices around the game.
But don't expect Hallmark, a Midland, Texas, native, to enter his next chapter with a "chip" on his shoulder. It's not about that, he says.
"It's not so much that I want to prove that I should have been drafted, it's more to prove that I belong here," Hallmark said. "My entire life, I feel like I have been overlooked a little bit in the sport of baseball. I am just here to prove that I belong here and that this is what I wanted to be doing and I plan on doing it for a while."
Hallmark's decision-making progress regarding his future was in full-swing when Houston called him last Saturday. He still had a year of eligibility remaining with the Huskers, where he could return to a rising program and take a shot at building upon a highly productive season.
By Sunday, he made his decision. On Monday, he was on a plane to Florida to meet with officials from the Astros' organization.
"It came down to I wanted to play professional baseball since I was a little kid, so I got the opportunity and I was all-in on it," Hallmark said.
He sought advice from some of the figures that have shaped his baseball career: Will Bolt, Darin Erstad and his Texas high school coach.
"I was bouncing the idea that if I came back would I have a better chance of getting drafted," he said.
Hallmark joins two former Huskers in Houston's organization: Scott Schreiber, who is playing in Double-A and Jake Meyers (Triple-A).