After four years of proudly wearing Gamecock garnet and black, TJ Hopkins will try a different shade of red.
Hopkins, a former Green Wave standout who this spring completed his senior season at the University of South Carolina, was selected by the Cincinnati Reds June 4 during the ninth round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. The outfielder reported to the Reds’ spring training facility in Arizona this weekend and is scheduled to leave May 12 for Montana. There he will join the Billings Mustangs, the Reds’ Pioneer League Rookie affiliate.
“It was kind of a surprise that Cincinnati took me, but during the eighth round they called me and said if you’re available in the ninth round we are taking you,” Hopkins said. “I’ve been so excited these past few days. I have met a lot of people and I’m just ready to get to short season in Montana and start playing with these guys.”
While the Reds didn’t tip their hat in regards to interest in Hopkins until the second day of the draft, multiple other pro teams expressed interest in the slugger earlier.
Hopkins grew up in Summerville as a Gamecock fan who often made the trip to Columbia to watch both the South Carolina baseball and football teams so when the Gamecocks began recruiting him it made his choice on where to play his college ball easy. His path to professional baseball wasn’t as simple.
Hopkins battled through some injuries during his sophomore and junior seasons with the Gamecocks but did have the chance to join the San Diego Padres organization last spring. He decided to instead return for his senior season at South Carolina. He now has no regrets about that decision.
“I think it allowed me to show the scouts my whole arsenal, that I can hit for power, hit for average and steal bags,” Hopkins said. “Plus, it allowed me to play at my dream school for another year.”
Hopkins started in all 56 games of the Gamecocks’ 2019 season. He had a .285 batting average with 11 doubles, three triples, 11 home runs and 42 RBIs. As a senior he led the team in stolen bases with 18 thefts.
Hopkins ended his college career with 47 stolen bases. He played in 188 career games with 35 doubles, 19 home runs and 112 RBIs while making 166 starts in the Gamecock outfield. He hit for the cycle in a win over Valparaiso on March 10 and belted two home runs in a win over Furman on March 19.
Hopkins was a two-time winner of the Tom Price Award given to the Most Valuable Player of the Clemson series. He homered in all three games against Clemson this season, helping Carolina to a series win in the beginning of March.
As a member of the Summerville High School Baseball team, Hopkins earned first-team, All-American honors in 2015. He was rated the seventh best high school prospect in the state by both Diamond Prospects and Perfect Game, which rated him the second and third best outfielder recruit in the state. He received all-state honors and was selected for the South Carolina Select All-star Team.
Hopkins is the son of Tim and Missy Hopkins. He majored in retail management at Carolina.