LOVES PARK, Ill. – Three Illinois State University Redbirds, one of them already a Major League Baseball draft pick, plan to stay in the state when they play baseball this summer.
The Rockford Rivets announced today that they have signed ISU third baseman Ryan Hutchinson, center fielder John Rave and pitcher Jeff Barton for the Northwoods League season.
“Ryan was the everyday third baseman at Illinois State last spring, as a freshman,” Rivets manager Brian Smith said. “He started the All-Star Game in the Prospect League last summer. I feel it is the natural progression, as a ballplayer, that he comes to Rockford and makes an immediate impact to our ball club. He is a big-bodied third baseman. His ability to provide a little power and baserunning awareness should help us build a unique lineup every day.”
Hutchinson hit .253 with a home run and 17 RBI in 52 games for the Cardinals last spring. The Mattoon native is a sophomore majoring in finance.
Rave, a freshman majoring in international business, picked the Cardinals over the Boston Red Sox, who drafted him in the 35th round last year. Approximately one out of every six players in each of the last two drafts were athletes with Northwoods League experience.
“John was a highly-regarded recruit coming out of Bloomington,” Smith said. “He has the ability to be extremely productive at the top of our lineup. The coaching staff at Illinois State believes that he is a difference maker defensively and has a chance to see a lot of time this spring.”
Rave hit .429 with three home runs his senior season at Bloomington Central Catholic High School.
Barton is a junior from Libertyville is a major in business administration. Last spring, Barton was 0-1 with a 7.98 ERA and a save in 18 appearances, 15 from the bullpen. He struck out 27 and walked 13 in 29 1/3 innings. The 6-foot-4 righthander walked more than two batters in only one appearance.
“Jeff has a background of challenging hitters in and around the strike zone,” Smith said. “His long frame will create a difficult downward angle, when he stays on top of the baseball, for hitters to square up. We are hoping that Jeff can come into the summer healthy and ready to help lead this pitching staff to its first playoff appearance in franchise history.”
The Rivets’ season begins May 30 at Kalamazoo. The home opener is at 6:35 p.m. June 2 against the Wisconsin Woodchucks. The Rivets are offering a $50 four-game pack that includes a replica Rivets jersey, tickets to four select games and all-you-can-eat food (burgers, brats, hot dogs, grilled chicken, popcorn and fountain soda) for the following dates: Friday, June 2; Saturday, June 24; Friday, July 14; Friday, July 28. The four-pack can be purchased only by calling the Rivets at 815.240.4159 or in person at the Rivets Stadium box office. There are a limited number of jerseys available, so don’t wait to order this four-pack.
The Rockford Rivets are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League, which will play its 24th season of summer collegiate baseball in 2017. The Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 20 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, 160 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including two-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (Washington Nationals), two-time World Champion Ben Zobrist (Chicago Cubs) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (Chicago White Sox), Jordan Zimmermann (Detroit Tigers), Curtis Granderson (New York Mets) and Lucas Duda (Mets). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League Website, NorthwoodsLeague.com.