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Bren Spillane ready to start professional baseball career with Cincinnati Reds

Spillane said it’s bittersweet having to leave Champaign.

Jonathan Bonaguro

Bren Spillane tuned in to the first and second rounds of the 2018 MLB Draft on Monday with friends and family, anxious to see if his name was going to be called.

As the night ended, Spillane didn’t hear his name get called on the first day, something that left a bitter feeling inside of him. Lucky for him, Spillane didn’t have to wait long the following day to have his dream come true.

On Tuesday, Spillane was selected 82nd overall (third round) by the Cincinnati Reds, making him the highest selected Illinois position player ever.

“It’s truly been an honor. I just saw it today on Twitter, I didn’t know that (I was the highest selected Illinois position player ever).” Spillane said. “That’s something that’s really cool. It’s something you dream of when you come to the University of Illinois, to go down as one of the highest drafted players is something that’s really cool.”

With the kind of season Spillane had at Illinois, it only makes sense that he would have accomplished such a feat. Spillane batted .389 his junior year at Illinois, hitting 23 home runs and driving in 60 RBI. He also led the nation with a .903 slugging percentage, the highest slugging percentage in college baseball since 2009.

Spillane started racking the accolades with a stat line like that, first starting with the Big Ten Triple Crown, followed by the Big Ten Player of the Year and the National Player of the Year by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper. Spillane is also a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award, which is awarded to the best amateur baseball player in the country.

Limited to 45 career games during his first two season, Spillane entered his junior year seeing professional ball after the season as a possibility, granted that his body would allow it.

“I knew I always had the ability to go (pro), it was just a matter of staying healthy and being able to play,” Spillane said.

During this past season Spillane played mostly at first base base for the Illini, yet he was listed as an outfielder, first baseman and third baseman on his draft sheet and drafted as a right fielder by the Reds. Spillane said this isn’t a position he is unfamiliar with, playing it during his time at Illinois, occassionally.

While he obviously has the strength and power, Spillane’s speed is another strong suit to his game, one that will allow him to play in the outfield and that he feels is the part of his game that is slept on.

Spillane led the Illini with 16 stolen bases his junior year.

“My ability to run (is what is slept on the most),” Spillane said. “I stole a good amount of bags, and then I ended up having a little bit of an ankle injury that limited me to running, but going forward I think speed is going to be a big part of my game.”

When one door closes, another one opens, and while Tuesday’s selection likely shuts hte book for Spillane’s time in Champaign as he enters his professional baseball career, he said he will always see Champaign as a home.

“I want people to remember me as a team guy, wanting to win, regardless of ups and downs,” Spillane said. “I had my time where I didn’t play at all due to injuries, so I definitely want people to be able to look to that and realize that if you work...you’ll have the chance to do something special.”