Billikens in the Pros: Baseball Edition


In between sports seasons for SLU means it’s a perfect time to check out Billikens in the pros. This is the first of a multi-part and multi-sport series highlighting life after SLU. The first team on the list: SLU baseball.

Despite yearly success, especially recently, the MLB has been an elusive goal for Billikens. Of 35 alums drafted over the past 50 years, none have climbed the ranks (multiple players climbed the ranks after being signed out of college, most recently Len Boehmer who played with the Reds and Yankees in the late 60s).  Yet, there’s still hope floating around the minors, as 3 former Bills continue to move up the ranks.

Although drafted in 2013, catcher Grant Nelson has bounced through 3 different teams within the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, along with his current independent league team, the Gateway Grizzlies. Times have been tough behind the plate, as Nelson’s batting only .186 over his young career, with 11 RBI’s to his name. The bright spot? He’s been a brick wall behind the plate, with a .991 fielding percentage in 46 games.

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I’m sure most of the people coming through Arch Authority could never see themselves rooting for a single soul in the Cubs organization. Well, I’ve found one you can cheer on. Third in the all-time record book for career ERA among SLU pitchers (2.84), James Norwood currently plays for the South Bend Cubs. Much like Nelson, the transition to pro ball hasn’t been easy, as he’s jumped between 3 team affiliates over two seasons. In just 6 games this season, Norwood has given up 5 earned over 8.1 innings pitched. Not terrible, but there’s work to be done.

Finally, infielder Alec Sole, a former stat stuffer who can be found on most “all-time/single season leaders” lists in the record book, including 3rd all-time in defensive assists, 1st and 2nd in assists in a single season,  tied for 1st in most games played in a season, and tied for 5th in most games started in a season-and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But the point is clear, he’s an excellent player. Last season with the Hudson Valley Renegades (Tampa), he only batted .199, yet played in 63 games. He was semi-promoted to high-A club Charlotte Stone Crabs, where he’s appeared in just 1 game this season. However, according to Sole’s Twitter page, he received an opportunity to briefly play with the Rays AAA squad in spring training. He had only one at-bat, and did the best he could with it, pulling an inside pitch over the right field wall for his first professional home run.

Next: 12 Players Who Cardinals Could Target in 2015 MLB Draft