Tanner Roark, currently of the Toronto Blue Jays, has long represented the Illini in the MLB. Illinois as a program has been successful in having players reach the next level via the draft or as undrafted free agents, but this season might be the year Roark gets some Illini company at the highest level.
Former Illinois closer Joey Gerber has been selected to the Seattle Mariners special 60-man roster and has been invited to their training camp. Of the Mariners on the roster, Gerber is one of 22 non-roster invitees.
Gerber’s time in the pros began when he was drafted in the eighth round by the Mariners in the 2018 draft. That came after tying Illinois’ single season save record, one that was eventually broken by Garrett Acton — who is still awaiting a hopeful call to the MLB.
In a day and age where minor league baseball, the draft and the season itself is shrinking, the road to the major leagues is much tougher than it has ever been. Should the Mariners get struck with injuries or a breakout of Covid-19, you could see Joey Gerber in the Major Leagues very soon.