Luke Stewart to move to full assistant position at NIU

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Luke Stewart: from the Illini to the Huskies

Now that the Hot Stove Banquet is over and done with, we can start focusing on the upcoming season which is two and half weeks away.  But first, a few things to wrap up.  

First of all, on behalf of Illini baseball fans, I’d like to wish last year’s volunteer assistant coach Luke Stewart a fond farewell and congratulations.  Luke will be leaving the Fighting Illini.  He has been hired by the Northern Illinois University baseball in a full-time assistant coach position.  Luke served faithfully in the first base coach role and did a fine job working with the team’s position players.

Good luck in your new position, Luke! 

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The FightingIllini.com website has wrap up of Saturday’s banquet as well as a photo gallery of their own.  Don’t miss the video of the guys singing the school song! 

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Finally, the Illini baseball information department has been busy lately.  They have just released the Fighting Illini Baseball Quick Facts sheet.  Everything you want to know about the 2015 Fighting Illini baseball team in one document.  It includes the team roster, 2015 schedule, 2014 stats and game results as well as other pertinent information.  You can view it at the Illini baseball website

Baseball season is less than three weeks away!


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Hal Morris keynotes a successful 2015 Hot Stove Banquet

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Fighting Illini Dugout Club president Jon Swenson, keynote speaker Hal Morris and Coach Dan Hartleb

It was a sold out crowd and there was a of fun to be had at Saturday’s Illinois Baseball Hot Stove Banquet at Champaign’s iHotel.  The Fighting Illini Dugout Club put on a spectacular production as everything fell into place and everyone attending seemed to have a grand time. 

 

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Illini players wait their turn to speak in front of pitcher Kevin Duchene who is on the big screen.

The Hot Stove Banquet is traditionally seen as the kickoff of the baseball season and appropriately, attendees got a chance to meet the Illini baseball players.  They were dressed up in fine clothes though they were wearing their jersey tops with their uni numbers.  As always, the boys were on their best behavior.  Like last year, reliever Anthony Milazzo wins the prize for goofiest standup when they all had their chance to address the crowd. 

 

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Former MLB player Hal Morris addresses the crowd

Keynote speaker Hal Morris delivered a fine speech. He recounted his love of baseball from a young age and told the sold out audience about playing as a child and developing his skills in high school and the University of Michigan.  He recalled the day that he was called up to the big leagues with the New York Yankees.  Of course, he had plenty of stories to tell about his days with the Cincinnati Reds especially the 1990 World Series championship team.

Coach Hartleb noted earlier that Mr. Morris waived the honorarium that he was offered to speak to the banquet and only accepted travel costs.  A classy move on his part, in my opinion. 

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Mike Namoff acknowledges a bidder during the live auction

The live auction portion of the evening is one of most exciting parts of the night.  And nobody brings more excitement to the process than auctioneer, Mike Namoff of This is It Furniture fame. 

Namoff’s humorous banter during the auction is quite entertaining and dare I say, probably profitable for the auction. Mike knows how to keep the pace going during the auction. 

 

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Illini baseball head coach Dan Hartleb was as eloquent as I have heard him when it was his turn to speak to the crowd.  That didn’t stop him from cracking a couple of jokes though.    Also, I was personally glad to see Illini baseball announcer Dave Loane serve as emcee this year.  His laid back, smooth voice and subtle humor as well as his knowledge of the sport was just perfect for the evening.

 

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Green Bay Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ autographed helmet was one of many items available for silent bid

No word yet on a final figure on how much money was raised during the banquet.  However, my wife did an informal tally of the live auction figures alone and it came up to well over $20,000.  That, of course, does not include the many silent bid items that were for sale. 

In all, it was a fantastic time.  The Hot Stove Banquet is perfect for re-connecting with the Illinois Baseball community.  I met with players and their parents as well as good number of former players who came back for the event.  Thanks to Coach Hartleb, the Fighting Illini Dugout Club, all of the Illini baseball players not to mention keynote speaker Hal Morris.  A great time was had by all! 

More photos from last night’s Hot Stove Banquet here

The Illinois Baseball team kicks off their season in less than three weeks on February 13 against New Mexico State in Beaumont, Texas. 


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Live Auction items up for bid at Saturday’s Hot Stove Banquet

Hot off the presses!  The Illini Dugout Club has just announced the items available during the live auction at the 2015 Illinois Baseball Hot Stove Banquet on Saturday. 

Get your checkbook ready! 

LIVE AUCTION

Chicago Blackhawks Blue Line Suite Sunday, March 8 vs. Rangers at the United Center – Includes 12 tickets, 4 Parking passes, Food and Beverages in the suite….SPECTACULAR SUITE!!!!

Join Illinois Basketball on a Team Charter Flight!! Package includes 2 Tickets, 1 Room at the Team Hotel and 2 Seats on the Team Charter – Game is a mutual agreed upon date for an early season non-Big Ten game. Details will be available when the 2015 Schedule is released (Due to NCAA rules no HS student can be present on the trip)

Innisbrook Vacation & Golf Resort Condo in Palm Harbor, Florida – 7 Night Stay – Deluxe Family Condo with Pools, Golf Course and minutes from the Beach!!!! – 2 Bedrooms and 2 Baths, includes a pullout sofa in main room, 20 miles from Tampa International Airport. Dates mutually agreed upon between May 1 and December 12, 2015

French Lick Resort Golf Package – Package Includes: Two Rooms for two nights and 2 Rounds of Golf for 4 People.  1 Round for 4 People on the Pete Dye Course and 1 Round for 4 People on the Donald Ross Course

4 White Sox Scout Seats. Sit in the Field Level Box Seats Behind Home Plate – Unlimited Food and Drink – Tickets are for a mutually agreed upon date. Premium games excluded

1 Round for 3 people at the Exclusive and Historic Medina Country Club – (4th will and must be the donating member) The package is for a mutually agreed upon weekday on course #3

1 of only  in the WORLD, Blue, Illinois Specific, New Shield Logo, Top of the Line Weber Grill – 2015 Genesis EP-330 LP Model…Top of the Line!!!!

Fourth of July @ Fenway Park, Boston. Experience one of Baseball’s Greatest Stadiums and the Breath Taking Boston Patriotic 4th of July Celebration – Your choice of 4 tickets for 1 of the following dates; Friday, July 3, with pregame field passes (if pre-game batting practice is taken) OR Saturday, July 4, tickets only (no pre-game batting practice for 1:35ET start) – 1 Room for 2 nights at the Astros team hotel – The Luxurious Westin Copley Place


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Illini baseball team takes first practice of 2015

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Will Krug takes his cuts in the batting cage on Friday

What best way to gear up for the 2015 Illinois Baseball Hot Stove Banquet than to watch the baseball team practice?  I stopped by the Irwin Indoor Facility today and took in some of the action.  Though they have been out on the field together, this was their first official practice of 2015. 

 

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Yes, new volunteer assistant coach Kyle Hudson (above, left) was there, ready to impart his knowledge to the young ones.  Today though, his job was to lob easy ones to those hitters taking batting practice. 

He wasn’t the only former Illini coming straight from pro ball helping out.  Willie Argo (above, right), former Illini and now minor league centerfielder, was in town to assist with today’s practice. 

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Limbering up

There seemed to be a lot of excitement about the Hot Stove Banquet which takes place tomorrow at 5pm at the iHotel in Champaign.  No doubt, most of  the players’ parents will be in town for the event. 

IMG_1031I talked a little with Coach Hartleb (left) about the team’s recent appearances in national polls.  Most recently, Perfect Game has the Illinois baseball team ranked #38.  Hartleb downplayed it, of course.  He did jokingly mention something about maybe attending the banquet tomorrow.  Glad to hear it.  It wouldn’t be the same without him.

There are a few more photos from today’s practice at the Illinois Baseball Report photo gallery.


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Hudson returns to Illinois Field in a coaching role

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A look back:  Kyle Hudson stretches at the 2007 Big Ten Baseball Tournament

Again?  Another former Illini is coming back to the Big Ten.  Two days ago, the Indiana Hoosiers hired former Illini shortstop Shawn Roof to take on the role as coach.  And now, the Illinois baseball program has just announced that former centerfielder Kyle Hudson will be returning to Illinois Field as a volunteer assistant coach! 

Like Roof, Kyle Hudson played on the 2005 Big Ten championship team.  He played on the Illinois baseball team from 2005-2008.  He was fast, a great glove man in centerfield and could rack up the hits. 

 

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A typical move for Kyle: stealing second

 

What they said:

Coach Hartleb: 

"I am extremely excited to have Kyle back with our program.  He is one of the all-time great Illinois athletes. He is one of only a handful of athletes in the world that has been a starter in two sports at the Division I level and has played at the highest level of baseball during his time in the MLB with the Baltimore Orioles. I have as much respect for Kyle as any player I have ever coached because of his work ethic, leadership, desire and maturity.”

Kyle Hudson

“I would like to thank coach Hartleb for this great opportunity.  He has been one of my biggest supporters since the time I stepped on campus in 2005. I could not have asked for a better mentor throughout my college and professional baseball career. I am excited for the opportunity to coach at the place that gave me so much in the three years I spent here as a student-athlete. The University of Illinois has such tradition, not only in athletics, but also in academics. I look forward to working alongside coach Allen and coach Dickinson, as well as helping with the continued success of our student-athletes. The Illinois Baseball program is one of the best in the country and I am blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of this great program once again."

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More recently:  Hudson playing for the AA Bowie Baysox in 2013

Hudson not only was a star baseball player at Illinois but he also played on the Illini football team as a receiver and punt returner.  He was a three-time letter winner in both sports and even played in the 2008 Rose Bowl.  Once he made the decision to stick with baseball though, the scouts paid attention.  He was drafted in 2008 by the Baltimore Oriole organization and spent 8 years in the minors which included a brief stint with the major league team in 2011. 

 

Kyle Hudson’s Illini career at a glance

  • Ranks second among all Illini with a career .376 batting average
  • Holds Big Ten single season record for runs in conference play with 40
  • Tied single season record for steals for an Illini (with Roof) with 40 (since broken by Willie Argo)
  • Ranks third among Illini for career steals with 66
  • Batted .398 in 2008 with a .498 OBP

Kyle will be a welcome addition to the Illini baseball team.  I remember him as a talented baseball player but also a leader.  He will have plenty to teach our already skilled crew. 

Welcome, Kyle!


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Former Illini Shawn Roof returns to the Big Ten

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One of the most popular players in Illinois baseball recent history is coming back to the Big Ten.  Shawn Roof, who was a fan favorite during his years from 2004-2007, has accepted a job with the Indiana Hoosiers baseball team.

Shawn has told me that he will be working with the infielders, hitters and will take on the first base coach duties at Indiana.  He’s very excited about the opportunity and looks forward to a Hoosier championship season.  I’m sure he’s happy to be a little closer to his home of Paducah, Kentucky. 

sroofindy 097-001After his tenure at Illinois, Roof was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 2007. He reached as high as Triple-A with the Toledo Mudhens in 2010.  As of late, he has been coaching in the Baltimore Oriole minor league system and even did a short coaching stint in Europe last Fall. 

Highlights of Shawn Roof’s Illini career:  he broke the single season record for steals with 40 in 2007;  the same year he also broke the single season record for hit by pitches with 22;  Four of those HBP came in one game, also breaking a record; In 2007, he was named the Big Ten Outstanding Sportsman Award winner;  In 2006, he was named Third Team All-Big Ten. 

For my money, there was no one who played harder on the field and yet epitomized what it meant to be an Illini baseball player off the field.  Wherever he has played, from Illinois to the college summer league Fayetteville Swampdogs to all of his minor league stops, he has endeared himself to the local fans. 

Looking at the 2015 schedule, I see that Illinois plays Indiana at home this year on April 17th.  No doubt, it will be strange to see Mr. Roof in a crimson and cream uniform instead of the familiar Orange and Blue but it will be fantastic to see him nonetheless.  As far as that Hoosier championship season, our guys here may have a thing or two to say about that. 


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Jan. 24th Hot Stove Banquet sold out!

IMG_2807-001For those of you planning to go to the 2015 Illinois Baseball Hot Stove Banquet, I hope you already bought your tickets.  Coach Dan Hartleb announced today that the event, with Hal Morris as keynote speaker has already been sold out.  That’s pretty amazing and overall a positive sign.  I’m glad to see interest in Illini baseball is so high! 

The Hot Stove Banquet, traditionally seen as the kickoff of the Illini baseball season, will take place on January 24th at the iHotel in Champaign.  Appropriately, the baseball team will begin taking practice on the day before on January 23rd. 

For those attending, I’m looking forward to seeing you all!


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Tyler Jay nets another preseason selection

IMG_4621Pretty soon, this is all going to go to Tyler Jay’s head. 

A few weeks ago, he was named as a second team All-American according to Collegiate Baseball.  Now, lightning strikes again.  Perfect Game has ALSO named Jay to their preseason All-American second team

Here is Perfect Game’s official press release

In 2014, Tyler Jay was 4-1 with a 1.94 ERA for the Illini.  He struck out 47 batters in 41 2/3 innings. 

No Big Ten player made the First Team but Tyler has company on the Second Team.  Jacob Cronenworth from Michigan joins him.  Cronenworth is listed as both a utility player and a pitcher. 

Congratulations Tyler!


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Warm Illini baseball thoughts on a cold day

imageAs the University of Illinois campus is suffering its coldest day of the year, I can only look forward to the Illinois baseball season in (hopefully) warmer weather. 

It won’t be long though.  In a little more than five weeks, the Illini will start their season in Beaumont, Texas at the Lamar University Cardinal Classic.  On February 13, they will take on opponent New Mexico State. 

The first home game?  That’s a little more than two months away when Illinois hosts Chicago State on March 10th. 

In two weeks, it will be time for the annual Hot Stove Banquet at the Hot Stove Banquet.  It will take place at the iHotel on January 24th.  If you want to absorb some warm baseball vibes including guest speaker former MLB player Hal Morris, reserve your seat at FightingIllini.com.  My wife and I will both be attending.  To what kind of fun that can be had, here are photos from last year’s banquet

Finally, Coach Dan Hartleb did a pre-season just interviewed today.  He spoke on the team’s trip to the Dominican Republic as well as the Illini’s entrance into the national top 40 rankings. 

 

 

Hope to see some of you at the banquet!!


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Happy Holidays from The Illinois Baseball Report!

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I want to wish all the players, coaches and all the Illini baseball fans out there a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  Here’s hoping Santa brings us a Big Ten Championship for the Illini!

Tom

P.S. sorry Coach! :)


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