Primarily a catcher as a junior at Wheaton Warrenville South, Jeremy Rhoades asked coach Tim Brylka for more of an opportunity on the mound.
Little did either one of them know exactly how that would turn out down the road.
Now five years later, the 6-foot-4 right-hander is on the doorstep of a professional baseball career after being selected in the fourth round of the MLB draft Friday by the Anaheim Angels. Rhoades recently completed his junior season at Illinois State University.
"We got the call and a couple of picks later, I saw my name on the screen to make it official," Rhoades said. "It was an overwhelming feeling.
"I had heard [I might be picked] as high as the third round and as low as the 10th round. I was hoping more towards the third round; it ended up being the fourth round and I'm extremely happy with that."
A broken finger late in his junior season of high school, which made catching a little more problematic, also pushed Rhoades more towards pitching.
"He had a really good senior year for us on the mound," Brylka said. "And that was his goal, he knew he had a chance to pitch in college. The biggest thing I remember about Jeremy is how athletic he was. He also played shortstop for us, he could play first base. He was a physical specimen, a strong kid, and he competed like no other.
"With his drive we saw every day coupled with his athleticism, we knew he'd do well."
Rhoades, the 119th pick overall, is the latest in an impressive list of ex-Tigers to hear their name called in the draft. In 2006, both Dan Brauer and Jack Nelson were selected.
"We are extremely happy for him and proud of him," Brylka said. "He's had a great career at Illinois State. He's done good things for them and I think he will continue to do good things at his next stop."
As a freshman, Rhoades appeared in 16 games for the Redbirds, going 4-4 in 45 1/3 innings. He earned first-team Missouri Valley all-conference honors as a sophomore after pitching in 27 games in relief, compiling a mark of 2-1 with six saves. This spring, the righty worked in a number of roles, finishing with a record of 6-4 to go along with four saves. Rhoades struck out 92 in 76 2/3 innings, yielding just 64 hits with an ERA of 2.35.
"To me, at this point the sky is the limit," Brylka said. "He will do whatever it takes and he has a good chance to hopefully continue his career."
According to Rhoades, he was going to sign a contract on Monday night to forgo his senior season and head to Orem, Utah today to begin rookie ball. He is expected to pitch out of the bullpen.
"I going to go in there and do the best I can," said Rhoades, who added that it's been a dream of his since five or six years old to play professional baseball. "Hopefully I can make it up [to the big leagues] as quickly as possible."
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