Less than a month ago, NBC 5 visited with Ed Howard, the top-ranked prep shortstop prospect in the 2020 MLB Draft class. When the south suburban Lynwood native was asked about his goals as a baseball player, he answered in grand fashion.
"I want to go down as one of the best shortstops to ever play," Howard said on May 20th.
And now, in a Hollywood style twist-of-fate, Howard may get his chance to accomplish that goal in his hometown. On Wednesday night, the 18 year-old was picked 16th overall by the Cubs.
"It was just as exciting as the dreams," remembers Howard. "I knew the pick was coming, I knew the Cubs had called earlier and let me knew the pick was coming ... [but] I was still excited. It was kind of a shock even after hearing my name. You just dream about that moment, and for it to finally happen is amazing."
Howard first rose to fame as one of the stars of Chicago's Jackie Robinson West team that reached the Little League World Series in 2014. He then went on to star at Mount Carmel High School, where he grew his stock as one of the country's premier players. But according to his trainer, Jason Griffin, being drafted in the first round is hardly an accident.
"He always had a chip on his shoulder to be great, and what made him special was that no matter what day of the week, he was going to come in and give it all," Griffin, who owns IMR Athletics Sports Performance, said. "Sometimes you have guys that are like, ‘Ugh, I just don’t have it today’. Ed had it every day for four years and counting."
Howard says in the hours after he was picked, he heard from throngs of people, including current members of the Cubs, specifically Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward and Ian Happ. How soon he might be able to play alongside those guys will be determined by the next decision he makes. Howard is committed to play college baseball at the University of Oklahoma, but it's more likely he signs with the Cubs and begins his pro career. A signing bonus in the neighborhood of three and-a-half million dollars is expected to be on the table.
"I always dreamed of playing pro ball, and I feel like, why not start as early as possible," said Howard. "But it’s definitely something I’ve got to talk with my family with, and my advisers, and just make the best decision."
When reflecting on his road to being drafted by the Cubs, Howard shared a story that now has a prescient feel. After Jackie Robinson West returned from the Little League World Series, the team got treated to a VIP experience during a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Howard got to stand on the infield as the Cubs took the field to start the game, and his mind started to dream.
"I was at short and I got to meet Starlin Castro," Howard recalled. "I remember I was just standing out there and I was looking around like, ‘I want to play short here one day’. It’s just crazy that it’s coming for real."