Former Independence star Robert Hassell III is continuing his ascent up the professional baseball ranks.
The Franklin native was selected eighth overall by the San Diego Padres in the 2020 MLB Draft straight out of high school. Now, just two years later, the 20-year-old has been chosen for the 2022 All-Star Futures Game.
50 of the American League and National League's best prospects will square off in a seven-inning contest set to take place on Saturday, July 16 at 6 p.m. in Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium as part of the yearly All-Star Weekend festivities.
"When I found out, I started thinking about the season so far and who's helped me. I thought about spring training when I met Brian Esposito, my manager," Hassell III told WANE-TV in Fort Wayne, Indiana. "I can't thank him enough; he's helped me a ton. The rest of the coaching staff too, and obviously, I want to thank my family for helping me out all the time."
Hassell III signed with San Diego for a $4.3 million bonus coming out of the draft, but the 2020 Minor League season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so he spent the year at the Padres alternate training site.
Last season, the outfielder was named to the Padres' spring training roster as as non-roster invite, and was then assigned to the Lake Elsinore Storm of the Low-A West League.
Hassell III was promoted to the Fort Wayne TinCaps of the High-A Central League that summer. After a successful season, he was assigned to Fort Wayne again in 2022 where he has excelled.
In the latest update of the MLB.com top 100 prospects rankings, Hassell III sits at 24th overall and 13th among players expected to make their debut in 2023.
"I remember there was a couple years ago when I was in what I believe was the first high school all-american game," Hassell III told WANE-TV. "It was in Cleveland, and we shared the same locker room as the Futures guys. And I was like 'Wow, that would be super cool to be in that one day.' Here I am, two or three years later, in that game. It's super sick."
Hassell III impressed immediately at Independence as both an outfielder and a pitcher. He was named the Williamson County Player of the Year in each of his first two seasons, before leveling up to the Gatorade Tennessee Player of the Year in each of his final two seasons.
Hassell III established himself as one of the best high school hitters in the country, earning an invite to the United States national team roster for the 2019 World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup.
There, he led the squad in a host of categories to earn the Dick Case award as the team's most valuable player. His performance helped lead to him being the first Tennessee prep position player to be taken in the first round of the draft since 1986.