For shortstop Jake Hager, the time to go pro was undeniable.
He was ready when the Tampa Bay Rays drafted him in the first round (32nd overall) in the 2011 MLB Draft. He'd committed to Arizona State, but opted to sign with the Rays after successful negotiations with the club.
And so it began. He made his professional debut with the Princeton Rays of the Advanced Rookie Appalachian League, finishing with a .269 AVG in 47 games. He also collected seventeen RBI and worked nine walks.
There wasn't a big adjustment period. He picked the process up quick.
"It definitely was a little difficult the first few games," he said Thursday. "After that, I was fine. Once I get that first at-bat out of the way, it was just like any other game."
The Henderson Nevada native, named Nevada State Player of the Year his senior year at Sierra Vista High where he also pitched, continued to flourish in 2012. His growth showed in the numbers for the Bowling Green Hot Rods. He played in 114 games and rose to the occasion with 124 hits and 72 RBI to end the season. In 2013, he advanced to High-A Charlotte, continuing a good pace, particularly with a hot start. He was selected to the Florida State League All-Star team, but due to an injury that sent him briefly to the DL, he didn't play.
Ultimately everything that happened added up to another great adjusting experience.
"The speed of the game changes completely [at the next level]. Pitches are throwing harder and throwing pitches you've never seen before. It gets faster and faster."
At 20, Hager is clear about what he did to "fall apart" in August. He has a grip on the reality of what it takes to develop a career that doesn't rely solely on the talent that got him there.
"If you don't have that positive approach, you won't succeed. That was the toughest thing. You have all the talent in the world, but you have to have the mental part of your game. Overall the season was good. I didn't finish the way I wanted to. Things didn't go my way. But the positive vibes I had helped me throughout the season."
His focus this winter, and heading into spring training, has been improving his speed and stealing more bases, something he said he'd like to have done more of in 2013. While he concentrated on being the best fielder and hitter he could be, he has a very exact plan about his future.
"The main reason I want to have better speed," he said, "Is that I want to be that player that can do it all."
You can follow him on Twitter @JakeHager1