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Judkins Ready To Begin Professional Career

Iowa pitcher signed with Athletics as free agent.

Grant Judkins is trading in black-and-gold for green-and-gold.

The former Hawkeye pitcher signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday, kicking off his professional career in an unprecedented time in baseball history.

“It was super exciting — just a lifelong dream I’ve had to finally fulfill that,” Judkins said. “It was also a relief at the same time just knowing that my professional career will officially begin.”

The past two months have been a roller coaster for Judkins.

Coming off of his best season as a Hawkeye, the Pella, Iowa, native had his senior season canceled just 15 games in.

Judkins posted a 2.12 ERA with 65 strikeouts and 31 walks in 2019 before concluding the shortened 2020 season with a 2.33 ERA and 2-0 record in four starts.

The work he put in before the season had been wasted. Until the A’s came along.

Judkins said he talked to a few teams throughout the process, but Oakland was the first to offer a contract. He took it.

Just like that, Judkins’ life had changed significantly twice in three months.

“I tried to make the best out of the situation,” Judkins said. “And then when I found out I would be signing, that was obviously life-changing. It has been a dream since I was young. It kind of went from the low end when the season was canceled to super excited, so it was kind of a crazy change.”

The process didn’t go as planned, however.

The MLB Draft shortened from 40 rounds to five, leaving many players who expected to be drafted on the board.

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Instead, players who didn’t hear their names called could sign with a team for a maximum of $20,000.

That changed the way Judkins approached the draft. While he likely would have been selected in a 40-round event, he shifted his focus to free agent signings.

“With the draft being shortened, I knew my chances of being drafted weren’t very high from the start because I knew teams would probably focus on going after juniors or the high schoolers that they wanted to get,” Judkins said. “So, I kind of just started to focus on [free agency] and figure out what teams were thinking as far as if they wanted to sign me or not.”

Iowa pitcher Grant Judkins signed a free-agent deal with the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday. (Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen for USA Today Sports)

Iowa pitcher Grant Judkins signed a free-agent deal with the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday. (Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen for USA Today Sports)

Joining the professional ranks ultimately outweighed going back to Iowa for Judkins, where he would have possessed one final year of eligibility.

Iowa rolled out a solid start to the 2020 season, with a 10-5 record that included three wins over ranked opponents. Keeping Judkins on the roster certainly would have helped in the Hawkeyes’ quest for a Big Ten title.

But Judkins has already graduated with a degree in finance and spent four years in the Hawkeye program. To him, the opportunity to go pro came at the right time.

“Coming back another year would have been great to play with my teammates and be around my coaches for another year,” Judkins said. “But I think the best opportunity for me would be now, just with all the unknowns and all the risks that would come with coming back for another year.”

Now, Judkins plays the waiting game.

With the Major League Baseball season still up in the air, Judkins hasn’t been told when he will report to the Athletics.

Until then, he’ll be training in Iowa City, lifting and throwing to prepare for his newly-launched career in professional baseball.

“There’s a lot of unknowns still,” Judkins said. “I don’t know when I’ll have to report or where I’ll have to report. I’m just kind of sitting and waiting, and I’ll be ready whenever they tell me I need to show up.”