Following along with the MLB Draft, Justin Janas tried to stay patient.
The Marist grad and University of Illinois product had been in contact with 10-plus teams over the last year, and he knew there was a strong chance he’d be drafted.
And then, in a flurry, the calls and texts flew in.
It was the San Diego Padres. Then it wasn’t.
Then he received a call from his agent. The Atlanta Braves were picking him.
“It was San Diego and then the Braves. It was crazy how it changed so quick,” Janas said. “It was all so crazy. That I’m a professional athlete now, it’s hard to take in. I can’t even wrap my head around it. From high school to travel ball to college, I’ve put in so much work, just 100-percent effort. It’s that next step now.”
The Braves picked Janas in the 12th round of the MLB Draft on July 19 with the 365th pick overall. The 20-round, three-day draft was held July 17-19.
Janas was coming off two strong seasons for the University of Illinois.
“I was pretty much sitting in the basement tied to my phone for the draft,” Janas said. “I was hanging out all day long, talking to my agent. The waiting was not bad. My agent was keeping me up to date, and I’d had meetings with probably 15 teams, all the different scouts. Then, you’re thinking ‘OK, this round for this much.’ That was the anticipation.”
Janas signed his contract with the Braves in the days following the draft.
He left for the Braves spring training facility in North Port, Fla., on July 24 and went through physicals and workouts with the other draftees.
Then, after about 10 days, the team will assign him to one of its minor league teams.
Wherever Janas ends up, he’s ready for the challenge.
“From Marist to Illinois to summer ball, it’s that next step, that next job to do,” he said. “Now more than anything, I’m excited to get to work and grind my way through all the levels. You get what you put into it. At the end of the day, I get to go play more baseball.”
Janas, a 6’2”, 205-pound first baseman, is a Homer Glen resident and 2019 Marist grad.
His freshman season in 2020 at Illinois was cut short due to the pandemic, but he used the time away from the team to drop some weight, ultimately losing about 30 pounds, and packing on muscle.
The on-field results were evident when the 2021 season rolled around. Janas ultimately won the Big Ten Conference batting title, hitting .392 in his sophomore year and was named All-Big Ten First Team.
Then playing for Kenosha Kingfish in summer 2021, he won the Northwoods League batting title with a .402 batting average (70 for 174).
“The Northwood title, I’d say that was harder,” Janas said. “You’re playing every day with no scouting reports on pitchers, and you’re seeing new arms each game. I found my rhythm and a great routine.”
This past spring for the Illini, Janas hit .349 with a .493 on-base percentage. He also found his power stroke, smashing 6 home runs after a homerless 2021 and adding 37 RBI and 46 runs scored.
“As an offensive player, I was a little bit up and down where I wasn’t swinging it very well in parts of the season,” Janas said. “I got out of the slump though, kept the same approach and went out and played the game. I had a little power, too, where everything clicked and swung it well.”
Marist Coach Kevin Sefcik said Janas has always worked hard at improving as a hitter. Janas was a four-year varsity player for the RedHawks.
“A slump for Justin is an 0-for-4 day,” Sefcik said. “He’s going to have success. He just hits line drives all over the field. He’s always been able to hit. Sometimes, the power is the last thing to develop. If you barrel up as many baseballs as he does, you’re going to make good contact and have good hits with that pop.”
Janas was primarily a first baseman and designated hitter at Marist and Illinois, but he’s worked hard to improve as a defender all over the field, including at third base and in the outfield.
No matter the defensive position or the spot in the lineup, Janas is once again ready to show what he can do.
“I’m a guy who hits for average, can drive the ball to all fields, gap to gap, and I’ve got power,” Janas said. “I’ve worked on my power, can hit all types of pitches, can move runners over, and I’ll grind out long at-bats. I can’t wait to get to work and get going.”