In his first season as a college baseball player, Damon Haecker did something pretty remarkable — he went to an SEC program, Auburn, and started all 56 games for the Tigers as a freshman.
Haecker, an alumnus of nearby Lake Brantley High School in Altamonte Springs, hit .259 with four doubles and 17 RBIs for Auburn in 2014.
The respectable numbers are a benchmark that the starting shortstop has exceeded seemingly with ease in his 30 games so far as a member of the Winter Garden Squeeze. Haecker nears the top of the list in nearly every offensive category in the Florida Collegiate Summer League this season, hitting .336 with a pair of home runs with two weeks to play.
For Winter Garden coach Ruben Felix, what the talented shortstop has brought in production has been matched only by what the rising sophomore has brought to the table in leadership.
“That’s the one thing I liked a whole lot about him, being a young guy, that he was already a leader with his group [at Auburn] and he came to our ball field and brought the same mentality,” Felix said. “He’s very mature for his age and I think him, playing as a freshman, he realized that in the SEC that’s a hard thing to do.
“He’s taken that and grown from it.”
For Haecker, playing for the Squeeze (16-14) this season has served a few important purposes.
The rising sophomore is getting a chance to hit for power and show the coaching staff back at Auburn his versatility. Just as important, though, is that Haecker — who comes from a tight-knit family — is able to play his summer ball close to home.
“It’s been a lot of fun, actually,” Haecker said. “I get to stay home, at my house and be with my family … it’s a big thing for me to come home and play [locally] in the summer.”
A state champion in 2013 with Lake Brantley, Haecker will be pivotal to Winter Garden’s success down the stretch. The Squeeze remain very much in the hunt for the top seed in the playoffs and figure to contend for a league championship in their first season.
All that considered, though, Haecker says his goals for the rest of the season remain the same.
“Just going back [to Auburn] with a lot of confidence,” Haecker said. “Going back with a better mindset than I did last year and just getting better each day.”