Eight years after turning down a football scholarship at the University of Alabama — eight years after saying no to Nick Saban — Destin Hood put on a Major League Baseball uniform for the first time.
“I’ve had a long hike,” Hood said.
Hood, a 26-year-old outfielder who rejected the instant fame of big-time football in order to pursue his dream of playing baseball, had finally made it after all these years.
Hood was among a handful of minor-leaguers the Marlins called up Thursday, the first day teams could expand rosters. The rest had all experienced a taste of the majors at some point.
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For Hood, though, it was more than a dream come true. It was his validation — long in coming — for choosing one sport over another.
Had he gone to Tuscaloosa, Hood would have caught passes on three national championship teams at Alabama. He would have played with high school teammates A.J. McCarron and Mark Barron.
But Hood never wanted to play football.
Baseball was always his first love, from the time he was 4.
“I knew deep in my heart when I was a kid,” Hood said on his first day in the majors. “I asked my dad one question when I signed to play professional baseball. I said, ‘Did I ever want to play in the NFL?’ And he said no. I can’t ever remember wanting to play in the NFL. All I wanted to do was play on a Major League Baseball field.”
Saban recruited Hood, showing up at his home to pitch Alabama football.
“I told him if I have a chance to follow my dream in Major League Baseball, that’s what I’m going to do,” Hood said.
The decision was made for Hood when he was chosen by the Nationals in the second round of the 2008 amateur draft. Thus began the long journey through the minors.
As the Tide rolled to national glory year after year, Hood found himself questioning his decision, wondering if he had made the right one. When Alabama won the national title in 2009, Hood was in rookie ball with the Vermont Lake Monsters.
“You’re human,” Hood replied when asked if he had second thoughts.
Hood thought the end had come when the Nationals released him after the 2015 season, short of his dream. But the Marlins signed him over the winter and stuck him at Triple A New Orleans. Hood hit 15 homers for the Zephyrs.
The Marlins likely would have sent Hood home after the minor-league season ended this Monday had Marlins center fielder Marcell Ozuna not sprained his wrist in Wednesday’s third inning at Citi Field.
In need of an outfielder, the Marlins contacted the Zephyrs, who were playing in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and had Hood pulled from their game there. It was the sixth inning.
On Thursday, Hood was in the Big Apple. The big time.
He was asked about the decision he made eight years ago, and whether now it was all worth it.
“It’s a hard thing to think it was an easy decision,” Hood said. “It wasn’t. There’s always going to be people [who] say I should have played football. But this is my dream. You tell me if it’s worth it.”
▪ In addition to Hood, the Marlins also called up relievers Brian Ellington and Nefi Ogando, and catcher Tomas Telis.
Left-handed pitcher Raudel Lazo was designated for assignment.
▪ Marlins manager Don Mattingly said first baseman Justin Bour could return next week. Bour, who has been out with a high ankle sprain since early July, will play in a simulated game in Jupiter on Friday.
“He’s been doing well,” Mattingly said. “We think we have a chance to get him back, at least as a bat off the bench.”
Mattingly said that, ultimately, Bour will be able to play the field.
Wei-Yin Chen, who is working his way back from an arm injury, will pitch in Friday’s simulated game. Chen could return to the rotation in mid-September.
▪ Friday: Marlins RHP Andrew Cashner (4-10, 4.73 ERA) at Cleveland Indians RHP Carlos Carrasco (9-7, 3.23), 7:10 p.m, Progressive Field.
▪ Saturday: Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez (13-7, 2.79) at Indians RHP Trevor Bauer (9-6, 3.73), 7:10 p.m., Progressive Field.