GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Courtney Hawkins’ ultimate goal has been right in front of him every day for the past week.
As he ventures down the carpeted path from the clubhouse to the field, the White Sox 2012 first-round pick walks directly past fields full of big leaguers taking batting practice and throwing bullpens.
One of 44 minor leaguers in town since Friday to take part in a minicamp, Hawkins, the 14th overall pick in June’s amateur baseball draft, doesn’t need the reminder. He knows he’d prefer to rub shoulders with Paul Konerko and Chris Sale.
But he also realizes it’s the extra instruction he receives in camps like this that will one day help him realize his dream of becoming a major leaguer.
Hawkins, 2012 supplemental-first round pick Keon Barnum and five of the organization’s other top-30 prospects (per Baseball America) are part of a group that has received individual instruction before minor-league camp opens next week. Minor-league pitchers report to camp on Sunday and position players arrive next Wednesday.
“Gotta get there,” Hawkins said. “It’s just another step to get to. I’m here right now, trying to get there. So for me right now it’s more like a grind trying to get there.”
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As long as he can recall, White Sox director of player development Nick Capra said the team has hosted minicamp. For at least 15 years, the White Sox have asked minor leaguers, especially the pitchers, to arrive to camp early.
Of the 44 players in camp, 22 are pitchers and the hope is, Capra said, to have them ready to throw five-plus innings when the season starts in April. But its also another opportunity for the White Sox to get their hands on and mold players they hope to develop into the next wave of major league talent.
Other top prospects in camp include: pitchers Chris Beck, Brandon Brennan and Jefferson Olacio and infielders Joe DeMichele and Micah Johnson.
“Especially coming out of the end of the season and the instructional league we have a plan for most of them going into the winter,” Capra said. “For the most part it has been real exciting coming in to see these guys. They’ve worked hard during the course of the winter. They’ve worked on mechanics and for the most part everybody looks really solid.”
Outfielder Trayce Thompson is a two-time minicamp attendee.
He said the exercise has helped to acclimate him to big league camp because he was fortunate enough to get called up to and play in several major league exhibition games.
But Thompson believes the individual work with coaches, a practice that becomes more difficult when the minor-league clubhouse goes from a quarter full to packed with players, has equal value.
“It’s a little more direct and it helps out a lot,” Thompson said. “You get out here before minor-league camp gets hectic because it gets real crowded over there. You get to see the atmosphere of big league camp. … It’s almost like a head start and you get to experience more of a major league atmosphere.”
Hawkins said the team hasn’t asked him to make any major adjustments thus far. Not that there’s much to adjust.
In his first professional season, Hawkins, who was drafted out of Corpus Christi Mary Carroll High (Texas), had a combined slash line of .284/.324/.480, eight homers and 33 RBIs in 59 games.
“Hasn’t been too much changing me up, just little minor things on hitting and my approach but that’s about it,” Hawkins said. “We’re just getting back in from the offseason, trying to get your defense down, your swing down, just everything, trying to get ready.”