Former Show Baseball stars Steven Hajjar, Jared Dupere, and Dom Keegan continue to chase their baseball dreams going into 2022
By Danny Priest
Baseball is a game marked by achievements. Hitting .300, throwing a perfect game, capturing the elusive World Series trophy, and numerous other goals in between mark excellence.
For a majority of professional baseball players, the first step in the process is achieving what’s viewed as a dream by millions of kids growing up: getting drafted.
It’s no small feat in any sport and gaining the validation that a professional team believes in your abilities and wants to invest in your future is extremely fulfilling.
Steve Lomasney has been there before. Lomasney, who grew up in Peabody, Mass., was drafted by his hometown Red Sox in the fifth round of the 1995 MLB Draft right out of high school.
Baseball is different than other sports such as football and basketball because those who get drafted have to make a choice. If they are coming out of high school, a player can opt to forego his college commitment and turn pro.
Many players also consider the option of going to school to raise their draft stock and re-enter the draft after three seasons in college.
Lomasney, who in 2011 founded Show Baseball New England, a skill development club program for youth baseball, chose to take the former of those two options.
He went pro and played 12 years of professional baseball, appearing in one game at the professional level for the Boston Red Sox.
According to Baseball America, of the more than 1,200 draftees in a typical MLB Draft, more than 900 players on average will agree to terms to become a professional baseball player. The remaining players either go off to college or may simply just fail to agree to terms with the club that drafted them.
It’s hard to get drafted, but then it becomes even harder to move up through the minors. Per Baseball America, from 1981 to 2010 just 17.6% of players who were drafted and signed a contract ended up making it to the major leagues.
That’s less than one in five players. The numbers dip with each passing round. From that 1981 to 2010 period, 73% of first round picks reached the majors. In the second round, that percentage drops to 51% and by the third round the figure is 40%
After the seventh round, only 20% of players selected will eventually reach baseball’s highest level. Times are changing, too.
“Now, there’s only 20 rounds (in the draft); back when I played it was upwards of 60 rounds,” Lomasney said. “Each team was drafting 50 players a year and you’ll never see that again. To get drafted nowadays is much harder than it used to be.”
Lomasney lived through the wild draft experience and everything that comes with it and now he has dedicated his post-playing career to helping kids reach their baseball dreams like he once did.
Through Show Baseball, Lomasney has developed a talented ecosystem of players and his next top class is emerging right now.
Last July, three Show Baseball products had their names called on draft night. Steven Hajjar was taken in the second round (61st overall) by the Minnesota Twins, Jared Dupere in Round 13 by the San Francisco Giants, and Dominic Keegan got the call in the 19th round by the New York Yankees.
All three are standouts on the field and each one had an important decision to make. Luckily for them, Show Baseball and Lomasney prepared them for this moment and now they are ready to keep chasing their dreams of making it to baseball’s highest level.
The draft is a stepping stone. The real work happens now.
Big League Ready
Steve Hajjar has always been a natural on the baseball field. Long before he stood at 6-feet-5 inches tall and commanded the mound as a dominant left handed presence for the Michigan Wolverines, he was dominating competition at all other levels.
The Andover, Mass., native was the 2018 Gatorade Player of the Year and Merrimack Valley Conference Player of the year in Massachusetts. Coming out of Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, Prep Baseball had him ranked as the No. 1 left-handed pitcher in the state and the No. 3 pitcher overall.
“Steven is the quintessential guy that when you look at him, he’s a pro,” Lomasney said. “He’s physical, he’s athletic, he has the body type, he just looks like a professional pitcher. From a very young age he was bigger, stronger, more athletic, he was just a pro guy and I knew that early with him.”
Hajjar had all the tools necessary to succeed at baseball’s top levels, but his attitude carried along with it.
“As a kid – his work ethic, his compete level, and the way he is as a teammate, he’s got it all,” Lomasney said. “He’s a leader, a mentor, and a man amongst boys no doubt.”
Originally, Hajjar was drafted coming out of high school. The Milwaukee Brewers selected him in the 21st round of the 2018 draft, but his sites had long been set on going to the University of Michigan.
“I don’t think my parents would have ever let me sign out of high school, which I’m thankful for now because Michigan is such a great school,” Hajjar said.
Hajjar was on his way to Haverhill Stadium for a Super Eight baseball game when he got the call that he was being drafted. Though he appreciated the moment and the gesture from the Brewers organization, he never considered not going to Michigan.
Shortly after his arrival on campus, Hajjar had a moment that could have made anybody hesitate for making a decision to pass up the guaranteed money of signing an MLB Draft deal.
While playing pickup basketball in January before the season, Hajjar went up for a dunk and got undercut while in the air. He didn’t land right and he’d later find out he’d torn his ACL and would miss his freshman season.
Despite that, he never doubted his decision for a second.
“The second that I got to Michigan, I knew that was the right place for me just because of the culture that we had on the team and the group of guys we had and I got to learn from,” Hajjar said. “Guys like Tommy Henry, Kyle Coffman, and Jeff Criswell were three huge role models for me that I got a front seat to watch that first year and take advice from those guys.”
By the time he did get on the field, Hajjar thrived. He had a 2.70 ERA in 2020 and a 3.09 ERA in 2021 while being named first-team All-Big Ten.
While his talent sets him apart, finding the right school is a credit to the work Lomasney and Show Baseball does with all of their guys to make sure they’re going to be comfortable and set up for success at the next level.
Lomasney and Pete Delani, Show’s Academic and Recruiting Advisor, work with each person in the program tirelessly to find a school that matches their needs.
“When these kids come, we start freshman year and have our recruitment meetings,” Lomasney said. “We start planning a path for these guys and each year there’s a different process they’ve got to follow, so by the time they get to their recruitment year we have a really good idea of the academic piece, the athletic piece, and the financial piece.”
Lomasney requires his players to write down schools they believe are realistic options for them to attend. His players must research schools and he encourages all players and parents to visit without being accompanied by a college coach.
“It’s the three buckets for us. It’s the right baseball fit, it’s the right academic fit, and it’s the right financial fit,” Lomasney said.
In the case of Hajjar and numerous others, it works. Not only did he get to attend one of the top business schools in the country, Hajjar was also fully comfortable with the baseball situation he found himself in.
“I was very lucky to have the coaching staff that we did at Michigan,” Hajjar said. “I think, in my opinion, it’s the best coaching staff in the country with Erik Bakich, Nick Schnabel, for my first two and a half years. Then we had Chris Vetter, who is now the pitching coach with the Detroit Tigers. For my junior year it was Steve Merriman whose been all up and down the professional ranks. The amount of care and passion those guys have and bring to the field every day was something that was special to be around. I’m very thankful that I was able to be there.”
The proof is in the results. After three years, Hajjar was selected 19 rounds higher in the draft and already began his professional career with some rookie ball last year summer.
With the help of Lomasney, the staff at Michigan, and his own belief in himself, Hajjar is well prepared to continue climbing the ladder in his professional baseball career.
If Steven Hajjar was the golden child of showcase teams for Show Baseball coming up through high school, Jared Dupere was the sleeper. The Amersbury, Mass., native was not a household name like some of his counterparts, but he was dripping with talent.
“He’s always been my sleeper,” Lomasney said. “Everyone always talked about Dom and Hajjar. I’d say hey this Dupere kid here is pretty freaking good and they’d all say, ‘Yeah, yeah, but we want to see Hajjar.’ He was always kind of just behind the scenes.”
An All-ISL Baseball player in 2018 for Governor’s Academy, Dupere stayed local choosing to attend Northeastern University in Boston.
His first year was slow, as it often is when guys adjust from high school to the college level. Dupere appeared in 29 games and hit just .156 over 90 at-bats.
Dupere took time that summer to fine tune his approach and experiment with some new things in his game.
“I think it all started that summer,” Dupere said. “I played in the Futures League for the Nashua Silver Knights and I think I found my way facing good pitching every day. Playing every day that summer and getting over 100 at-bats, I kind of played with a few things, made a few adjustments, and worked on my approach which was really the biggest thing I had never done until then.”
After that, in his words, everything “clicked.” In 15 games before COVID-19 shutdown his sophomore season, Dupere was hitting .359 with two home runs and 13 RBIs.
The success was no aberration. When he got back on the field as a junior, he had an outstanding season for the Huskies. Dupere hit .343 and smashed a single-season school record 21 home runs, third in the nation. He led the CAA and was third in the NCAA with a .781 slugging percentage. His 50 runs driven in were second-best in the conference.
The secret was out. Jared Dupere was no longer a sleeper, he was a household name.
“He’s as fast-twitch and athletic, physical, and strong as anyone,” Lomasney said. “His compete level is through the roof and he’s a perfectionist. The work he puts in with his swing and his ability to make contact, plus all the things he does athletically, he can probably play anywhere in the field.”
Dupere’s performance didn’t surprise him. He always believed in his own abilities and was willing to make adjustments necessary to succeed.
“I think it was more of an approach, but also I’ve always been big into the gym,” Dupere said. “I always pride myself on how strong I am. I wasn’t necessarily surprised about the numbers and how hard I can hit the ball. I did add some more med ball stuff into my training that I definitely think helped a lot because I never did that stuff during my freshman year of college.”
Dupere was rewarded when the Giants selected him in the 13th round in July, and like Hajjar he got a taste of pro competition last summer.
Through everything, getting drafted is something Dupere will remember for the rest of his life.
“That was still a surreal moment for me,” he said. “It was a lifelong dream to have my family by my side and I had a million friends texting me and we had a little party at night, so it was fun.”
Dupere is an example of the value Lomasney and Show can provide to players. They helped unlock the skills that he always had. “They take their practice very seriously, they’re tremendously coachable, and tremendously competitive,” Lomasney said of his top guys.
“They wanted to be great at a very young age. When you have that instilled in you and you grow and develop, the second piece is the physicality and having the natural physical ability to compete at a very high level along with that drive and hard work – then you have someone really, really special. The first part for us is always about coachability, hard work, and commitment to getting better every day and these guys had it from day one.”
Dupere was in the shadows for a long time, now he’s ready to emerge once again as he tries to claw his way to baseball’s highest level.
On those old Show Baseball teams a few years back, it was Hajjar starring on the mound and Dupere providing pop in the lineup, but Dom Keegan was right alongside them the entire time.
Keegan, a standout athlete alongside Hajjar at Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, played basketball and baseball for the Red Raiders.
It was clear that baseball was going to be his future when he committed to continue playing at Virginia Tech as a sophomore in high school. A commitment that early may seem surprising, but it wasn’t for anyone who’d seen Keegan on the field.
“There were times where Dupere would lead off and he’d hit a homerun to center field, our two hole hitter would get up and slap one in the hole, and then Dom would get up and hit a home run to left field,” Lomasney said. “They were just different at 15 years old, different at 16 years old, their power was so beyond other guys.”
Keegan was a star. He first got connected with Lomasney as an eighth grader and he credits him for helping move his baseball career to higher and higher levels.
“Steve does a really great job of building kids into college baseball players and that’s what he did for me,” Keegan said. “He kind of took my game to the next level. He has a great perspective from being a player himself at the highest level. Everything he would teach us and me personally, I just wanted to be a sponge and soak it all up and take all the information in.”
For the past three seasons, Keegan has been a star at Vanderbilt University. He won a national championship his freshman season and this past year, as a junior, he hit .345 on his way to earning second team All-America honors from Perfect Game.
His college success isn’t a surprise, but being at Vanderbilt arose by chance. A coaching change at Virginia Tech caused Keegan to re-open his recruitment and within hours numerous schools were calling.
“It was like flood gates had opened up and he was offered by multiple schools within hours,” Lomasney said.
Despite the attention, it was an easy call for Keegan.
“Vanderbilt reached out to me right away and Coach Brown offered me a spot,” Keegan said. “Growing up watching them on TV, it was just the kind of place that any kid would want to go to and play college baseball. I didn’t even give it a second thought, I just said, ‘Let’s do this.’”
The move certainly paid off as Keegan emerged as a key contributor which ultimately led to his selection in the 19th round of the draft by the Yankees.
Despite the temptation to take guaranteed money and turn pro, Keegan again didn’t sweat over his decision to finish out his career at Vandy.
“I talked to some people like Steve who were closest to me and I kind of came up with a number,” Keegan said. “From talking with other people, I learned that you’ll know when it’s right and when it feels right. For me, Vanderbilt was kind of a hard place to leave. I had calls in several rounds that didn’t feel right, so I just planned on coming back here. I’m happy to be back here and I’m looking forward to the next draft.”
Keegan still has work to do as he looks to add another championship and more accolades on his resume before his collegiate career ends, but it’s a safe bet to believe he has the talent to achieve anything he sets his mind too.
“He’s as well-rounded a hitter as you’ll find,” Lomasney said. “He’s up there with one or two of the best approaches from a hitter I’ve coached. What I mean is when he earns the opportunity early in the count to drive the baseball and does it, then when he’s behind in the count he’ll shorten up and go the other way. That’s how you hit .350 with 15 home runs in the SEC.”
Lomasney went as far as to say that there are professional hitters who would be hard pressed to handle the bat the way Keegan does.
“There’s not a lot of righties in the major leagues who can do what he does with a baseball to right field, right center field, and center field. It’s special. He’s another quiet kid off the field, but as competitive as they come once he’s in between the lines. He’s a great leader and he won’t be outworked. Absolutely will not be outworked.”
Keegan, Dupere, and Hajjar are all examples of how far hard work and perseverance can take a person in the game of baseball.
Getting their names called in the draft is an achievement they can cross off their lists now (even if Keegan will do it again), but the real pursuit to the true Show is just getting started.
For all three, they know they can lean on Lomasney anytime they need.