The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

White Sox Draft Pick Blake Hickman Uses Injury Time To Get His Iowa Degree

By Justin Breen | December 20, 2016 5:34am | Updated on December 23, 2016 7:47am
 Blake Hickman at his graduation ceremony from Iowa with his mother, Desiree.
Blake Hickman at his graduation ceremony from Iowa with his mother, Desiree.
View Full Caption
Facebook/Blake Hickman

CHICAGO — Blake Hickman took advantage of a lengthy absence from baseball by going back to school.

Hickman, a Simeon Career Academy alumnus, graduated from the University of Iowa on Saturday with a degree in sports studies almost two years after he left the school to sign a professional baseball contract with the White Sox.

The right-handed pitcher from Auburn Gresham was picked by the White Sox, his favorite team, in the seventh round of the 2015 Major League Baseball draft.

He's hasn't played an inning of professional ball, though, as Hickman underwent Tommy John surgery shortly after signing with the Sox.

"Being able to go back to school, keeping a promise to my parents that I would graduate, that was a big positive to come out of this situation," Hickman said. "Everyone — including me — expected with me getting drafted, I wasn't going to be able to get the school part done."

 Simeon grad Blake Hickman graduated from the University of Iowa recently. He was drafted by the White Sox last year.
Simeon grad Blake Hickman graduated from the University of Iowa recently. He was drafted by the White Sox last year.
View Full Caption
Facebook/Blake Hickman

Hickman's mother, Desiree, said she was beyond proud her son earned his degree.

"As a parent, you pray that your children grow up to do better and better than you ever could be," Desiree Hickman said. "On Saturday I was ... unable to hold back my tears I thought about the moment we met with the coaches here and discussion around what Iowa's program had to offer and how they saw Blake fitting into their program. The only true comment that I heard and wanted to hear was your son will graduate from our university with a four-year degree.

"The date that Blake was drafted, I said to him, 'Please promise me that one day you'll get this degree; you are too close not to finish.' He promised. I'm so excited, overjoyed, and truly blessed is the only way that I can express my feelings."

Hickman had one semester left to complete his degree when he left Iowa in 2015. He took 16 hours this fall after he returned to Iowa City, living on campus. The class load included statistics, philosophy, American sports since 1900, sports in film and a black history course.

Hickman said the White Sox covered most of the room and board and tuition costs, as is the case with most professional teams paying for players who return to college after they sign contracts.

"It was a blessing that the Sox were able to help out," Hickman said.

Hickman said a host of family members attended the graduation. That included his two older brothers, Justin and Christian, who are graduates of St. Xavier University and Alcorn State University, respectively.

"I look up to my brothers," Hickman said. "For my family, it was a huge deal that I graduated."

Hickman, 23, has been playing baseball since he was 5 years old in various youth leagues on the South Side. From ages 12-17, Hickman was part of the White Sox Amateur City Elite travel program, which has placed several inner-city players in Division I universities and professional organizations.

"If it wasn't for ACE, I don't know where I would have ended up," Hickman said.

Hickman was an all-state catcher at Simeon and a member of the 2011 city runner-up team. He also played the position at Iowa before switching to a full-time pitcher in college.

He's not sure when he'll report to spring training with the White Sox, but said it will be no later than March. Hickman, who's back in Chicago and has been working out at De La Salle High School and the University of Illinois at Chicago, said he's fully recovered from the surgery and can't wait to get back on the pitcher's mound.

"I just want to play again," he said.

For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here.