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Hawkins eager to flip script on MLB arrival

Five-tool prospect motivated to speed through White Sox system

Hawkins eager to flip script on MLB arrival

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The following scene opens with Courtney Hawkins as a starting outfielder for the Chicago White Sox.

Now, remember this is just an artist's rendering. The highly touted prospect's Major League reality looks more like 2015 or possibly even late 2014.

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Hawkins steps to the plate, in his first big league at-bat, and launches a 420-foot drive into the left-center field seats at U.S. Cellular. Hey, if it's a hypothetical situation, it might as well be a good one.

As Hawkins rounds the bases with a smile on his face, he crosses home plate, celebrates with his teammates and now has a decision to make.

To backflip or not to backflip?

That question was posed recently to the team's top pick from the 2012 First-Year Player Draft (13th overall) after a day of workouts at the White Sox Minor League mini-camp. Hawkins flashed a $2.475 million smile, representing the slotted bonus he received, probably thought briefly about his perfectly executed backflip before being interviewed on Draft night in June, and then showed the wisdom of a seasoned veteran with his response.

"You have to ask Kenny Williams, Buddy Bell and Rick Hahn. That's up to them," said Hawkins, MLB.com's top-ranked White Sox prospect. "I'm not doing anything without their permission."

This 6-foot-3, 220-pound physical specimen, built like an outside linebacker or hard-hitting defensive back, doesn't need permission from Hahn, Bell and Williams to move quickly through the White Sox system. His five-tool talent should be convincing enough.

In 59 games across 2012 stops at Advanced Rookie Bristol, Class A Kannapolis and Class A Winston-Salem, the 19-year-old batted .284, with eight homers, 33 RBIs, 15 doubles, 11 stolen bases and three triples. Bell describes Hawkins as possessing a big league aura, with people gravitating to his engaging personality. In talking with him for just seven or eight minutes, it's clear Hawkins gets it at a very young age.

It, as in the work needed to succeed. It, as in the respect for his teammates. It, as in the respect for the game. And let's include the fans in this same grouping.

His Twitter account, @CHawkins10, has close to 6,000 followers. Some fans tweet him words of encouragement. Others make promises to be in attendance when Hawkins makes his Major League debut.

Then there are a few who make slightly stranger requests.

"I've got some people who asked to come to the house to do interviews," said Hawkins with a laugh. "That's a little out there, but at the same time, I enjoy reading people's comments and opinions on stuff and seeing what their mindsets are.

"One thing I did with the way I was raised, I see guys get drafted or in the bigs, they kind of space themselves out from everybody. For me, everybody I talked to when I was in high school or I did have a relationship with or anything like that, I'm still talking to them now. It's not like I ignore people.

"So, when people hit me up on Twitter, I talk right back to them if I'm not busy. Might as well say, 'Thank you, I appreciate it,' or 'Nice to meet you too.'"

While driving in the offseason with his older brother and mentor, Tim, Hawkins spotted a little girl in a wheelchair going down the street alone. He immediately went to Twitter to solicit suggestions on helping the less fortunate, and through responses from his followers, Hawkins donated money to four different causes.

Hawkins' greatest source of advice is his older brother. During the interview, Courtney pointed back to his locker and mentioned that he had missed calls and messages from Tim, a football player who will be graduating from Texas State and is 3 1/2 years older, just checking in on his day.

Tim was the one who forcefully pushed a 280-pound sixth-grader to join him at football practice, work alongside him and help him get down to 190 pounds, where he became a Division I football and baseball prospect. But Courtney offers up another smile when asked if his brother's help simply was about better conditioning.

"Way more than just getting in shape. There's a lot more to it," Hawkins said. "If he wasn't helping me in high school and middle school to get through what I got through and put me in line to help me face adversity on the times that were hard, I wouldn't be here at all."

"I couldn't imagine Courtney being that big," said White Sox director of player development Nick Capra, who lauded Hawkins' family, including his father, Tim Sr., and mother, Larissa, for their positive influence. "He's a beast right now. Just from seeing him last year and this year, you can tell he's done a lot this winter to improve what his body looked like last year."

An early 2013 plan for Hawkins is to start the season at Winston-Salem, but he already has his eyes fixed on the South Side of Chicago. Amid the 100 mph big league rush comes some important advice from friend and fellow White Sox outfield prospect Jared Mitchell.

Take stuff day by day and just enjoy where he's at presently.

Mitchell speaks from experience. The 23rd overall pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft lost the 2010 season to injury and wasn't fully healthy in 2011. This Spring Training, he's starting to show signs of the player the White Sox always imagined.

That journey is just beginning for Hawkins, who has the White Sox ready to flip with excitement.

"Whatever I got to do to get to the Majors, I'm going to do it," Hawkins said. "I like the pressure. It just means I have to go out and play ball.

"Everyone tells me not to read stuff, not to get caught up in the media. I actually do like reading some of the stuff to see where guys project me to be. I read 2015 to 2016 [in the Majors], and I mean any time somebody says something, I try to push it earlier. I try to beat that goal."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, and follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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