SAN FRANCISCO -- Not many ballplayers can say they've been drafted four times. Alexander Omar Hinshaw, a left-handed pitcher who made his Major League debut on Thursday against the Houston Astros, is one of the fortunate ones who put school ahead of baseball and made it work. "I had talks with my parents, who did not get the opportunity to go to college," Hinshaw said. "They wanted to make sure, their only child, would get a college experience."
So when the San Francisco Giants first entered his life in 2000, Hinshaw chose Chaffey College instead.After two years in junior college, the Giants came after him again. He politely refused again and transferred to San Diego State. "I love playing the game, and it's always been a dream of mine to play in the Major Leagues," Hinshaw said. "I had to weigh in so many things. There are so many bullets in the arm, and I wanted something to fall back on. I wanted as much school as I could." So he skipped the Florida Marlins' offer in 2003, and when the Giants drafted him a third time in 2005, he was finally ready to sign. "I had enough school done where I felt good about it," Hinshaw said. "I have maybe two or three semesters left when I go back and finish when my baseball career is over." His decision to focus on education likely produced a more mature, focused pitcher. Before reaching Class A San Jose, he was a stubborn, fiery kind of pitcher, who, by his own admission, tried to blow batters away with every pitch. He ran into San Jose pitching coach Jim Bennett in 2006, who began the process of harnessing Hinshaw's raw talent. "He told me, 'You have the stuff to pitch in the big leagues, and now you have to learn to trust it,'" Hinshaw said. "He explained how I didn't need to throw every pitch as hard as I could. "If I gave up a hit when I backed off, I'd get upset at myself," he added. "He helped me understand that strikeouts don't necessarily equal success. He made up a term for me, and called it 'controlled insanity.' Since I've been able to harness that intensity, I find that the adrenaline comes naturally." Giants scouts Darren Wittcke and Lee Carballo stayed in touch with Hinshaw through the years, and Carballo was one of the first to congratulate him on his promotion to the big leagues. "He tried to tell me the same thing, but I was too stubborn," Hinshaw said. "I never lost contact with him, and I have a good relationship with him." Hinshaw had never been to a big league Spring Training, but did pitch in a few spring games as an extra from the Minor League camp. His first official Major League assignment was to stop an Astros rally. He struck out the first batter he faced in Michael Bourn, but allowed a single to Kazuo Matsui. The next night he struck out White Sox slugger Jim Thome, the lone batter he faced. "Every step of the way in this organization I've had coaching staffs that were a good fit for me," Hinshaw said. "Every one had a part in molding me into the pitcher I am today, and I hope I make them proud." He's committed to getting a degree too, though he hopes that day will come a long way into the future.
Rick Eymer is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.