There are many moments as a coach that truly make you happy for a player in your program -- a kid's first home run, getting and accepting a college offer or being selected to an individual seasonal award, to name a few. But there is none like watching a junior high kid grow into a man, work hard and then get rewarded by a major league team. I got my first taste today, as Charlie Tilson of New Trier High School was drafted 79th overall by the St. Louis Cardinals.
I got to know Charlie about five years ago when he was going into his freshman year in high school. He was taking private lessons with his hitting coach (and my good friend/colleague) Phil Apostle at AcademyELITE Baseball in Glenview. Charlie was a very nice and humble kid even then, making fun of himself by rehashing the story of last year's first overall pick Bryce Harper going yard agains him in Cooperstown when he was 12-years-old.
It was clear then Charlie was going to be a special player, but it became obvious when he was brought up to varsity his sophomore year and led New Trier to a state title. Three months later he received a scholarship to attend University of Illinois. Then he shoved in our face when he was the lone player to hit a home run in the area code games in California last summer. Over night, Charlie jumped from a mid-round draft pick to a top round selection.
Charlie is the kind of kid that doesn't demand praise -- when asked how he did after a contest, Charlie always mentioned the outcome of the game first, almost shying away from the hype, while still exuding confidence, mentioning his 3-for-4 day at the plate almost offhandedly. I would often catch Charlie alone at AcademyELITE hitting tees, working on his game without looking for recognition of him doing so, as so many kids do. Charlie is simply a great, hardworking kid and deserving of the reward that was bestowed upon him today by the Redbirds.
Congrats to Charlie, his mom, Margaret, and father, Joe (also Will -- his crazy and hilarious little brother). This could not have happened to a better kid and family.