DEWITT – Looking out over the high school baseball diamond where he once competed, T.J. Sikkema spent Tuesday evening signing autographs, accepting congratulations and trying to wrap his arms around everything that has happened in the past week.
“It’s been pretty incredible, the way everything has played out,’’ Sikkema said. “It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, pretty hectic but I’m anxious to get going again and get back on the mound.’’
The mound is about the only place Sikkema hasn’t been in the past week since being selected by the New York Yankees with the 38th pick in the baseball draft.
He went from watching the draft in his family’s home to Tampa, where he took a physical and signed a life-changing contract with the Yankees.
His new employer gave him the weekend off, providing Sikkema with the chance for a quick trip home to catch his breath before beginning the next chapter in his baseball career.
Named Monday by Baseball America as one of 17 second-team all-Americans following his junior season at Missouri, Sikkema enjoyed spending time with family and friends knowing that he leaves today to begin the next chapter in his baseball career.
Before taking off, he spent Tuesday evening at the picture-perfect baseball field tucked along a cornfield behind Central DeWitt High School.
The high school team coached by Sikkema’s father, Shane, was hosting a doubleheader against West Delaware and the evening provided his hometown with a chance to wish Sikkema well.
“I spent a lot of hours out on that field, grew up out there,’’ Sikkema said. “The people here at home have always been so supportive and that has always meant so much to me. It’s good to get a chance to say ‘hello’ to a few of them here tonight.’’
Every player on a DeWitt youth baseball team showed up with a baseball for Sikkema to sign.
He obliged and penned his name on the back of jerseys and the bills of caps of dozens of folks of all ages who just wanted the opportunity to congratulate Sikkema or offer him their best wishes.
Every sentiment was appreciated.
“It’s a process that’s just beginning, but I’m ready to go to work,’’ he told one man.
The work begins today.
Sikkema returns to the Yankees minor-league complex in Tampa.
He’s been told to expect to spend a couple of weeks there.
Having not pitched since throwing a complete-game, three hitter for Missouri on May 17 against Florida, Sikkema expects to throw a few bullpen sessions there to begin to work his arm back to where it needs to be to compete.
From there, the Yankees have told him he will likely be assigned to their short-season Staten Island affiliate in the New York-Penn League.
Because of his workload during the college season, going 7-4 with a 1.32 ERA over 88.2 innings for the Tigers, Sikkema will likely be limited to between 40-50 innings over the rest of a season that runs through the first week of September.
The Yankees have told him he will likely pitch about once each week, seeing no more than two-to-three innings at a time.
“It will be pretty limited, but I feel like it will give me a good chance to get introduced to the pro game and their way of doing things,’’ Sikkema said.
He’s already adjusted to one of the requirements the Yankees have for their minor-players. Sikkema was sporting a short haircut as he posed for pictures Tuesday.
“It’s my profession now, still a game, but it’s also my job,’’ Sikkema said. “It’s been good to have a few days at home but I’m excited to get back down there and get to work. I’m ready to get back on the mound and go.''