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Ty Weber
Ty Weber was not drafted, but signed as a free agent with the San Francisco Giants.

Illini baseball star talks about RST, and his future

Before the start of his senior year, Illini baseball pitcher Ty Weber had two goals: graduate and get into pro ball. He's on pace to do both.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound righthander was off to a great start on the diamond, going 2-0 with a 1.31 ERA in four starts. He struck out 15 in 20 2/3 innings and outdueled Texas A&M lefthander Asa Lacy—the fourth overall pick in last week's MLB Draft—in a game the Illini eventually won, 1-0 at the Frisco Classic in Texas on Feb. 28.

Two weeks later, the burgeoning COVID-19 pandemic struck, and college baseball—and soon the world—came to a halt. The impact of the virus ended Weber's amateur career, and the shortened season probably contributed to him not getting drafted, especially with MLB cutting the number of draft rounds from 40 to just five. 

Still, teams were interested and following the draft from June 10-12, players who were not drafted but were eligible were allowed to sign pro contracts for $20,000, starting June 14. Weber signed with the San Francisco Giants shortly after the free agency period opened.

Weber, who is scheduled to graduate in August with a bachelor's degree from the Recreation, Sport and Tourism Department within the College of Applied Health Sciences and was chosen to the spring Academic All-Big Ten team, talked to the AHS communications staff about baseball, his time in RST and his future.

Q: I realize baseball might have been the main reason you picked Illinois, but why did you pick RST?

A: I chose RST because almost every memory I have as a kid, I was always involved in some type of sport. I wanted to choose a degree that I felt I had the most in common with, and hopefully pursue a career after baseball is done in the sports industry. I researched what types of classes I would need to take for RST before declaring my major, and I realized that this would be the perfect route for me. 

Q: Which professor had the biggest impact on you?

A: I really enjoyed Don Hardin's classes. He was a professor that you knew, every day, he would bring something new to class, and always had the class engaged. I really liked how authentic he was and how he wasn’t afraid to let the class speak their opinions in a group discussion setting. 

Q: What was your favorite course?

A: My favorite course was RST354, Legal Aspects of Sport. That class really opened my eyes as to how deep of an industry sport is, and how law connects to sport. It was a very interesting class, and I really thought Kyle Emkes did a really great job of keeping the class engaged and informed. 

Q: Did it help you lean toward a career that maybe you hadn’t thought about?

A: Not as of now, but I think the wide variety of classes RST offers really allows each student to find what they want to do with their future and run with it. 

Q: Baseball remains the top option, right? But what about beyond that?

A: Yes, baseball is the top option as of right now. I'm going to take the opportunity I have been given with the Giants and try to make the most of it, and if things don’t work out, at least I won’t have any regrets. After baseball, I think a lot is up in the air for me right now. COVID has really taught me to live in the moment more often and not try to plan everything out. I've thought about potentially getting into coaching after, but as of now I’m just very focused on improving my baseball skills every day. 

Q: Has COVID-19 affected your baseball options? I know you just signed with the Giants, but do you think you’d have been drafted with a 40-round draft? What about life in general? 

A: My life after we found out college baseball was cancelled was a whirlwind of emotions. Right after coming home, all I could think about was returning to school to finish on a good note the way a four-year senior should. As time went on, and some MLB teams expressed interest, I started to really think I had a chance of getting signed. Being able to sign a contract and finally know what path I’ll be taking for the next few years excites me because for the first time since March 12, I have some direction in my life. I truly believe if we played a normal college baseball season, I would’ve been drafted this year. That was hard to think about after the collegiate season got cancelled because a part of me thought I’d never get a chance to play professional baseball. 

Q: What’s next for you, especially with MLB on hold?
A: As of now, my life is very repetitive (like most people). I am working a part-time job as an assistant with a family friend, and giving some pitching lessons to a couple youth players in my town on the side. I try to work out every day, and am throwing five days a week with my dad. Until we find more information out about the future of the MLB, I’m acting as if I was never signed. Part of me has anxiety because I just signed a major league contract, but I also have no idea what my life will be like in a month. What helps me is knowing there are thousands of players just like me in the same boat of never knowing what will be next. 

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