Three Illinois State University Cardinals, 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 Thursday that they have signed ISU third baseman Ryan Hutchinson, centerfielder 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 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.
For more information visit rockfordrivets.com.