RIESEL, Texas — Landon Dieterich is a small-town guy.
A Riesel High School graduate, he played just about every sport the school offered until enrolling at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor to play baseball.
But, from the Division III ranks, the path to professional baseball isn't just long and winding, it's often uncharted.
"As soon as I got to UMHB, the tides turned a little bit," Deterich said. "I went from weighing about 190 pounds to putting on about 20 pounds and I got to about 210-215. Then I started hitting better."
Monday, Dieterich saw a lifelong dream come true with a stroke of the pen instead of a swing of the bat.
He signed a contract to play in the Washington Nationals' organization.
"It was just tears of joy all the way around," Dieterich said. "I couldn't even talk on the phone, I was just so excited about it all and I finally said, 'Alright, let's do it, I'll sign right now.'"
He's not quite sure, yet, when he'll report to camp with the Nats. Whenever it is, he's expecting to start in rookie ball.
But he knows one thing.
The fact he got looks and a contract means scouts think he projects well in to the professional game. And Dieterich said that's the first hurdle for him on this new journey.
"I think the main thing is those guys look for projectability," Dieterich said. "Like, 'Can he put on some weight? Can he throw harder? Can he hit better and stuff like that.' I'm sure that plays a part."
In college, he hit 10 home runs as part of 44 extra-base hits.
And while he knows the competition, like the pitching, gets harder in the pro ranks, he also embraces his new role with high schoolers sporting the Riesel maroon.
"All I can say is keep working hard, because I did not expect to be in this position when I was your age," Dieterich said. "And all I know is one day, it'll find you if you're doing the right stuff and hanging around the right people."
Dieterich is the first baseball player from UMHB to sign a professional contract since 2017.
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