CAROL STREAM – The Brian Loconsole story is one about perseverance and never giving up.
The Carol Stream native said he was cut three times from the baseball team at Glenbard North High School, but he continued to follow his athletic dream.
This past weekend, that dream became an unlikely reality when the 6-foot-2, 215-pound right-handed pitcher was selected in the 20th round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
"When you are growing up, you might think about making the pros. But you don't think about the road to get there," Loconsole said.
Turns out, Loconsole's road had more twists and turns than most selected in the three-day draft.
His one year in a Panthers uniform came at the freshman-B level, though he continued to play baseball in a local league during the summer. Loconsole had already decided to go to Western Illinois to continue his education. But then the mom of Loconsole's summer league catcher dared him to try out for the Leathernecks' baseball team. Just eight pitches into the workout, he won a spot on the roster as a walk-on.
But after redshirting his freshman year, the Leathernecks' coach died after a battle with leukemia and the new hire thought the best spot for Loconsole was a junior college because of his lack of experience. Named pitcher of the year at Moraine Valley Community College in the spring of 2010, Loconsole returned to Western but pitched sparingly during the next two seasons.
He needed to catch a break. It finally came this year with the arrival of first-year skipper Ryan Brownlee. After a strong fall, Loconsole was rewarded with the closer spot and a scholarship for his final season.
"Any time failure crossed my mind, I just stuck with it," Loconsole said. "And I'm glad I did because I'm excited about where I'm at now."
Given a chance to show what he could do, and armed with a fastball ranging from 91 to 94 mph, he took the opportunity and ran with it. He appeared in a team-high 22 games on the mound and his nine saves this spring set both the single-season and career saves record at the school.
"It was a lot of fun," said Loconsole, whose go-to pitch is a cutter. "I got a lot of texts throughout the year saying 'We knew you could do it.' I just stayed humble about it. I think I was the same pitcher I always had been but everything just clicked."
His first save of the spring came in the first series of the year against No. 1-ranked Arkansas.
"It was the last game of the series in front of 8,000 people," he said. "It was remarkable."
Now the next step in his baseball journey is Tempe, Ariz., where Loconsole will head this weekend for a seven-day rookie camp. From there, he will be sent to one of the Angels' affiliates.
"To be honest, I'm not nervous at all," he said. "I've worked hard to get where I'm at and I'm going to go and just do my best."