Illinois baseball coach Dan Hartleb is closing in on the school’s all-time wins record. Tonight the Illini baseball program will take on the Missouri Tigers in the Braggin’ Rights Game at GSC Credit Union Ballpark in Sauget, Ill. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the home of the Gateway Grizzlies, a Frontier League franchise.
Hartleb is currently tied with Lee Eilbracht (1952-78) with 518 all-time wins at Illinois, so obviously a W here gives him the record, all by himself.
With that in mind, we re-publish this piece that we did on Hartleb back in May of 2021. We had an exclusive by telephone with Hartleb that week, where we discussed the approaching milestones, as well as a multitude of other topics. (Part two can be found at this link)
“It’s nice that I’ve had some longevity and nice that we’ve had some success, but you have to celebrate what the players do,” he said of his records, both those already accomplished and the others that are within reach.
“I guess those milestones are rewarding and things that you look back upon and feel proud of. And I’m proud of a lot things we’ve done with the program, but I don’t think you can get away from the fact that this is about the players, not about myself or the coaches or anybody in the department.
“It’s 100% the players and they’ve done a great job of preparing and working their behinds off to be successful and that’s how you build up the resume- by having people around you.”
In 2006, Hartleb assumed the reigns of the Illini, having been the associate head coach for the previous four seasons, and an assistant with the Illini for nine years prior to assuming that associate coach position. Hartleb has achieved the most NCAA Tournament appearances in program history, with four in the last 12 years, as well as the best single season in program history in 2015. That squad was basically to Illini baseball what the 2004-2005 team was to Illini men’s basketball.
They were Big Ten champions (21-1), posted a school record 50 wins, as well as a Big Ten record 27 straight wins.
The 2015 Illini were Champaign Regional champions, were they won three straight NCAA Tournament games, before falling to Vanderbilt in the Super Regional staged at Illinois Field.
That team also produced the highest draft pick in Illini history, Tyler Jay, who went #6 overall to the Minnesota Twins.
Hartleb has made as many NCAA tournaments in 15 seasons as head coach (4), as the previous 42 years of Illini baseball combined. When the time comes for him to retire, he’ll go down as the program patriarch, like a baseball version of Lou Henson.
The highlights of his CV include being named D1Baseball Big Ten Coach of the Decade for 2010s, 2015 Big Ten Coach of the Year and a finalist for 2015 National Coach of the Year.
“I’ve always said when I’m done here, I want this place to be in a really good situation where the next person can continue to move forward.
“We’ve had some really good players, and good human beings and we graduate our players, these are the things I’m most proud of. The educational aspect is the most important part to me.”
“It is very rewarding when someone reaches out 5-10 years later and they’re very appreciative of what they went through when they were here,” Hartleb concluded.
Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Sports Bank. He’s also the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” and “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”
He’s written for numerous publications, including the New York Daily News, Sports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune. He regularly appears on NTD News and WGN News Now. Follow the website on Twitter and Instagram.
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