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Nanaimo NightOwls cheer their first-ever major league draft pick

Shortstop Elijah Ickes selected by the Texas Rangers
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Elijah Ickes, in the on-deck circle at a game Tuesday, July 11, at Serauxmen Stadium, is the first-ever Nanaimo NightOwls player to be chosen in the Major League Baseball draft. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)

Nanaimo NightOwls history happened yesterday: for the first time, one of the team’s players was chosen in the Major League Baseball draft.

NightOwls shortstop Elijah Ickes was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 19th round, 561st overall.

He had been in contact with a few MLB teams and knew there was a possibility he could be drafted, so he was keeping his phone close by. He found out he was drafted when NightOwls teammate Jax Hisle texted him congratulations.

“It was good news and something to be proud of,” Ickes said. “I’m really speechless, but I’m really humbled and proud to be selected.”

The 18-year-old comes to Vancouver Island from the Hawaiian islands – he’s from Wahiawa on Oahu and is set to play ball at the University of Hawaii next season. His coach there suggested Nanaimo and the West Coast League as a place to play ball and develop over the summer, and it’s working out – Ickes is batting .280 as the NightOwls’ starting shortstop and leadoff man.

“I’m very thankful to be part of this team – they’re the greatest…” he said. “I feel like just being a part of this team and this league, it’s really helping me get that experience.”

NightOwls general manager Jim Swanson said there aren’t many guys who haven’t even set foot on a college campus yet who can join the WCL and play shortstop on an everyday basis.

“He’s a guy who’s making the other teams nervous at the top of our lineup and has been getting on base a lot,” Swanson said. “That’s why we’re one of the top two or three teams in the league in offence – he’s getting us kick-started every game.”

Ickes said his approach to the game won’t change now that he’s an MLB draft pick.

“Same thing, new day, that’s pretty much it,” he said. “I’ve just got to keep on grinding and get better every day.”

The Rangers contacted him soon after his selection and said they were very happy to have been able to pick him. Ickes said the Rangers had scouted him in Hawaii two years ago and had kept in contact with him, for which he’s thankful.

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Hours after being drafted, Ickes and the NightOwls were in WCL action at Serauxmen Stadium, falling 12-8 to the Wenatchee AppleSox to snap a six-game winning streak. Ickes said when the team plays NightOwls baseball, they’re right there with the league’s top teams, and looks forward to seeing what they can do in the second half of the season.

“We know what’s at stake and we know we’re in that race for that playoff spot, and we’re trying to do what we’ve got to do to get there,” he said.

GAME ON … The NightOwls continue their series against the AppleSox on Wednesday and Thursday, July 12-13, with 6:35 p.m. game times both nights. For more schedule and ticket information, visit http://nanaimonightowls.com.

READ ALSO: NightOwls hit season’s halfway point as one of league’s hottest teams


editor@nanaimobulletin.com

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