Jon Popham's Quad Cities Report

An inside look at the Quad Cities River Bandits and an exclusive interview with the "on-base-machine", Brett Lilley.

This has been a difficult week for me as a writer and a fan of this game. I had conducted an interview and was prepared to submit an article about a young man who abruptly decided to leave the team. He asked me not to publish the story. Reluctantly, I respected his request. He has a lot to offer the world, but right now it's not going to be in baseball.

The Bandits have struggled all week and have slipped to fifth place in the division, 6.5 games back with only about 3 weeks left in the first half of the season. They stand at 22-25 on the season.

Charlie Cutler continues to lead the team in batting. He is now at .377 BA, .508 SLG, and .938 OPS. He has 49 hits, 8 doubles, 3 triples, and 30 RBIs. Roberto Espinoza follows him at .288 BA. Paul Cruz is hitting .282. Travis Mitchell has been a spark plug since he arrived, too.

It's difficult to pinpoint the cause of the struggles lately since the team is on the road and I'm trying to keep up by listening to the radio. The current road trip lasts through June 6 but the last 5 days of it include a day off and a four day series against Burlington. That's a commuter series so maybe sleeping at home will help.

Congratulations this week go to Casey Mulligan and Aaron Luna. Both were promoted to Palm Beach. Casey had a stellar stop here in the QCs as our closer and Aaron was promoted after spending most of his time here on the DL.

This week's spotlight shines on Brett Lilley, one of the most intelligent people I've ever met. I interviewed him on a Sunday afternoon when he probably should have been at Notre Dame. He just completed his Master's degree in accounting! He asked to move the interview up a day because on that Monday he needed to study; between the Monday and Tuesday games that week, Brett sat for the fourth section of the CPA national boards. He holds the current all-time NCAA record for getting hit by pitches—109 times in his four years on the field there.

Here is some of what we discussed that day:

Brett, thanks for taking time to talk today. I know you're busy! I'd like to give our readers a look at who you are and also talk about what you do on the field. Where are you from and where did you play last year?

I'm from North Canton, Ohio. I played at Notre Dame and in Batavia.

Of everyone on the current team, who do you think has the best chance to make it to the Majors?

Pitcher- Mulligan has nasty stuff. He gets batters to swing at pitches that aren't even close. He has the mentality to be in the bigs. (This interview was conducted just before Casey was promoted.)

Batter- That's more difficult to answer. Maybe the catchers? They are both tough. With Molina where he is, it's going to be tough. Maybe on a different team, not the Cards. Cutler hits. He is tough mentally, too. He's a good teammate.

What part of your game needs the most improvement this year?

Consistency at the plate, a consistent swing, getting my rhythm and timing to give myself the best chance to hit, not getting myself out. Today I swung at 2 balls in the dirt; I can't do that. I need to set up counts better. Recognize pitches.

What are you doing to improve it?

Do the same thing every time I get to the plate. Figure out what works for me in terms of rhythm, timing and swing.

Do you ever read what the fans are saying about you in discussion forums like

No. I check stats, but not any comments. I would rather read that people think I'm good, but that's not realistic. Mike Schildt, always said control what you can control. Do your best and let it fall. When I get hot headed, I can never give in. you have to play your game, no matter who is on the mound.

What's your favorite off-field activity during the season?

Watch movies, studying for CPA exam. I don't watch TV, actually, I'm rather alien to pop-culture. I read for learning.

What kind of books do you read?

Finance mostly, rally, anything that's not baseball.

If baseball had never been invented, what profession would you choose?

Accounting/finance, I would love to be a college professor or work with the market in some sense.

Where are you in the birth order among your brothers and sisters?

I have a sister who is now 25 who was a shortstop at Purdue for 4 years, she earned her MBA at Krannert, a sister who is a freshman at Northwestern who plays softball; she is 19. And I have a sister who is 12.

Who is your hero?

It was Derek Jeter growing up, and Matt Nokes—back up catcher for the Yankees. I caught a home run ball that he hit.

What advice would you give to kids just starting in baseball?

Get good grades, perform in the classroom or baseball will be taken away. Get grades or you can't play. Those open doors that baseball won't. I was recruited by Georgia Tech, Stanford, Notre Dame, my opportunity came from grades- others on my high school team were more talented, but I had the grades.

Considering the strength of the Cardinals system now (the increase of "real" prospects at all levels) what are you doing to make yourself more valuable to the game?

At EST I was playing third base. I make myself more versatile. I played shortstop, 3rd and 2nd in college. Work hard, avoid attrition.

I know you aren't a pitcher, but what do you think of the tandem starter system?

It's different, especially when someone is really throwing well. It gives everyone more opportunity to pitch consistently.

What is the biggest change in your personal life since you signed your professional contract?

We're on the road a lot. I had a girlfriend in college, but don't see her any more. She's a great girl, but we're more friends now because of distance. Her name is Kate. In EST the coaches discourage us from having a girlfriend or wife. They say, "don't get married." Baseball has to be first love, not a girl. It's about priority.

What should people know about you that they probably don't know?

I like relaxing, I don't like loud. I like to sit back and do nothing, mentally revamp.

Tell me a little about your reputation of getting hit at the plate. Do you get targeted?

Sometimes. Its a reaction, it just happens. If you know how to get hit and take it on the body, it's ok; just don't get hit in the head! It's a free pass. My job is to get on base, any way I can, to drive runs when I can, but 80% of my plate appearances are when no one is on base. I have to make stuff happen.

Thank you, Brett! Good luck with that CPA exam!

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