EXCLUSIVE: Darrin Fletcher on Illini Baseball Next Big Thing Bren Spillane

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DARRIN FLETCHER

Darrin Fletcher is no doubt on the Illini baseball Mt. Rushmore, right next to Lou Boudreau. Bren Spillane, if he takes the success that he’s enjoyed in college and translates it to the Major League level, could one day join them.

Fletcher, who played 14 years in the big leagues with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays, set an Illinois career batting average record of .497 (80-161) that still stands today. If you’re familiar with baseball betting, then you obviously realize how superlative it is to hit safely half the time. Bren Spillane, a 3rd round pick of the Cincinnati Reds (82nd overall) in the MLB Draft earlier this month, put up similarly eye-popping numbers in Champaign this past season. 

“I talked to him quite a bit, watched him play quite a bit,” Fletcher said of Spillane, who won the 2018 Collegiate Baseball Player of the Year award.

“Spillane had a two week stretch where he was 20 for 36, an incredible run, good hitter…at one point in the year was hitting .470 and it was early in the season, but he was racking up a bunch of hits. ”

We had an exclusive with Fletcher at the second annual University of Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame Gala Friday night at the Field Museum of Natural History on Chicago’s lake front. Darrin Fletcher was one of 21 enshrined. We asked him what kind of potential he sees in Spillane, the highest drafted position player in Illini history.

bren spillane

“I think for a third rounder, they’re going to invest money in him, the Reds are an organization that needs some help it looks like.”

“I think he’ll come up quick,” Fletcher continued. “More of these teams are looking for big strong fast guys that can hit for power, and I think he’s got the ability to hit some home runs.”

Spillane, a 21-year-old Hinsdale native, was assigned to the Billings Mustangs, the Reds Rookie League affiliate in the Pioneer League.

2015-mlb-mock-draft tyler jay

Indeed these are exciting times for Illini baseball, as they saw seven players taken in the most recent MLB Draft.

This past year’s team finished in the top part of the league, spent part of the season nationally ranked, and were just a couple wins away from going to the NCAA Tournament. The 2015 squad went to super sectionals and won a B1G record 27 in a row, en route to posting a school record 50 wins.

Additionally, pitchers Tyler Jay (’15, 6th overall, Minnesota Twins) and Cody Sedlock (’16, 27th overall, Baltimore Orioles) were first round draft picks. Darrin was the middle of three generations of Fletchers to play baseball at Illinois, following his father, Tom (1962), and preceding his son, Casey (2014-15). 

Casey is currently a volunteer assistant at U of I, where coaches first base, helps out with the bullpen catching and in recruiting efforts.

illini baseball tyler jay

We also asked him, if he was granted a plaque in Cooperstown, which hat would be on it? Of the four MLB teams that he played for, which one is really “his team?”

“I don’t know, it would be a Canadian hat, I played for the two Canadian teams, Montreal and Toronto, so it would have to have the maple leaf in the front I guess, with both teams.”

He made one MLB All-Star appearance in 1994 with the Expos, but his best season at the plate came in 2000 when he hit .320 with 20 homers for the Blue Jays.

darren fletcher

Fletcher currently lives in his hometown of Oakwood, Illinois where he grew up a St. Louis Cardinals fan.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and Chicago Now.

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