---- — Surrounded by professional baseball players and fellow Mets draftees, Ben Hecht was certainly feeling the temptation of the professional lifestyle calling his name.
Hecht, the St. Anthony graduate, traveled to Port St. Lucie, Fla. last month after being selected in the 31st round of the MLB Rule 4 draft in early June to work out with the team that drafted him. Despite the allure, Hecht decided to honor his commitment to Illinois State University and will be heading to college to play baseball instead of entering the minior leagues. The deadline to sign with New York was today, and now he will not be draft eligible until 2016."Seeing that makes you want to be a part of it just like anyone else. When I saw some of the outfielders and infielders, it made me want to sign that contract more, to have the top defense at the highest level," Hecht said. "Hopefully, I'll see them in three years."The St. Anthony righty certainly had the pedigree after the last two seasons, when he was named the Class 1A Player of the Year as a junior, finishing that season with a 10-0 record and a 0.75 ERA. His senior season was a bit tougher, finishing with a 4-1 record while striking out 97 batters in 51.2 innings. He was named to the Class 2A IHSBCA All-State team. Hecht impressed the Mets' scouts greatly on May 1, when he struck out 17 Neoga Indians on his way to a no-hitter.While going to college or the pros each had their merits, Hecht went with what felt comfortable. "I felt much safer going to college, learning there, getting in better shape," Hecht said. "There's nothing wrong with waiting a little longer, and reassuring yourself you won't get injured. Build up more of a repertoire of pitches, get my velocity up."Still, during his time in Port St. Lucie, there was enough there to give him pause on the decision to become a Redbird. "It was different," he said. "There's a challenge down there that's undescribable. It's something you want to be a part of."Hecht reports to Illinois State in mid-August, where he will play in the infield and pitch for the Redbirds. Playing the field and pitching was a key point in his selection of Illinois State earlier this year. The Mets and Hecht remained in communication for the month since the draft, with them trying to sell him on signing a professional contract. "They told me the fastest way to get to the MLB is to start your career out of high school, which I don't doubt," he said. "I'm still thinking about what could have been."Hecht will be playing ball around the area after his summer league with the St. Louis Pirates ended. He said he'll play a bit for the St. Anthony travel team and hopefully for the Effingham Post 120 American Legion team as their season wraps up shortly. "I don't want to be greedy, I have to wait my turn," he said."As much as I want to be down there right now, I think I made the right decision. "I hope I did."