New Trier Outfielder's Big League Dreams May Come True
Come draft day, Charlie Tilson may have to decide: go to college or start a pro baseball career.
Charlie Tilson had to skip school in mid-February for an appointment. The New Trier senior wasn’t sick and his teeth didn’t need cleaning; so when his adviser asked him why he needed to leave early, Tilson gave a different excuse.
“I’m actually meeting with the Boston Red Sox," the 18-year-old student said.
Going into his final season wearing the Trevian uniform, Tilson has a big decision--one that few high school student get to make. Though he is verbally committed to play baseball at the University of Illinois, Tilson may be drafted in June to play professional baseball.
“I’m undecided right now but I’m open to both options,” the outfielder said. “Depending on where I’m picked in the draft, [it] will help weigh my decision, but college is important to me.”
Rewind a year and Tilson didn’t have this dilemma. He wasn’t on most baseball scouts’ radar. With one swing of the bat, however, everything changed.
Last summer, Tilson played in the Area Code Games in California, where high school baseball talent get to meet and be evaluated by scouts.
“Going into it, I knew there wasn’t a lot of home runs hit,” he said. “The wind typically blows toward home plate because it comes off the ocean.”
Tilson was the only player to hit a home run at the Area Code Games and the scouts noticed.
“The phones started ringing off the hook from agents trying to sign Charlie up,” said his father, Joe. “Initially, it was a little surreal to be answering these calls but now it’s just become natural.”
Since that home run, Charlie Tilson has fielded calls from almost every Major League Baseball (MLB) team and many have conducted home visits to get to know him better, asking questions about his values and why he loves baseball.
“Growing up as a kid I was always way into sports,” Tilson said about his usual response to scouts. “I was the kid who left gym class with a shirt full of sweat and I knew if there was one sport that I wanted to pursue: It was baseball. I just love it.”
For every team, Tilson fills out personality questionnaires and medical information. His mother, Margaret, jokes that the MLB needs a common application so that her son doesn’t have to fill out the same information for every team.
For two professional teams, those background checks included a call to New Trier’s Athletic Director Randy Oberembt. The scouts asked Oberembt about Tilson's personality.
“At a school with a rich tradition of exceptional student athletes, Charlie Tilson stands out as unique,” Oberembt said. “What makes Charlie so remarkable is that he has retained his humility and compassion for others in the face of his own extraordinary athletic accomplishments.”
He may be a professional prospect but Tilson is focused on one goal right now: winning a state championship. He accomplished that feat in his sophomore year.
New Trier Head Baseball Coach Michael Napoleon wants to see the teen outfielder leave a legacy by putting another championship banner on the walls of the school.
“Charlie is a great leader. He’s not a real boisterous kid,” Napoleon said. “People look up to him because he’s modest, he’s sincere and he always says the right things.”
Four months from now, Charlie might be drafted. That much is a reality. What lies ahead is a decision between a college education and an opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream.
“It’s every athlete's dream to play at the elite level of your sport,” he said. “For me being a guy from up north in this weather and still being able to compete, it’s an honor to have that kind of status. It’s more incentive to keep playing and working harder.”