One way or the other, Charlie Tilson will know his baseball destination within the next week.
The Illinois recruit, who was drafted in the second round by the St. Louis Cardinals in June, remains in so-far fruitless negotiations with the National League team as the Aug. 15 signing deadline bears down on both sides.
"Obviously, it's getting to be crunch time," Tilson said Monday from his home in Wilmette. "It's going to be a tough week as far as trying to figure it out and trying to make a decision.
"Right now, I couldn't say I'm leaning either way."
Tilson and his father, Joe, declined to say how far apart the sides remain or whether there has been any recent progress toward reaching an agreement.
What is clear is that both parties now have little time to waste in talks that will determine whether the 2011 Gatorade Illinois Player of the Year turns pro or brings his considerable baseball talents to the UI later this month.
"I think things will kind of pick up toward the end of this week, obviously, with the deadline getting close," Tilson said.
The 5-foot-11 outfielder from New Trier High School, who was drafted on June 7, admitted that the drawn-out uncertainty over his baseball future has at times been difficult.
"I had the date of the draft circled, thinking here's when I kind of escape all this and figure out what's going on," Tilson said. "But it was a bummer on draft day. You realize you've got three more months of kind of waiting back (for negotiations to play out) and trying to figure out what's going on. So yeah, I mean, it's been tough. But then again it's been a fun process."
Tilson indicated he has talked with general manager John Mozeliak and other Cardinals executives since the draft but has left all negotiations to his father, an attorney who specializes in organized labor agreements and employment litigation.
"I trust my dad, and he's put a lot of effort into it," Tilson said.
Joe Tilson was named the 2011 Chicago Labor and Employment Lawyer of the Year by the publication "Best Lawyers."
"So I'm not in the position typical parents (of draftees) are," the elder Tilson said, "but I'm still a bit of a fish out of water. I've had to learn the nuances of professional baseball, the draft and so forth in the process."
With that process winding down to a precious few days, Charlie Tilson shouldn't be hard to reach if the parties reach a breakthrough.
"I'm going to be pretty close to my phone at all times," he said.
Tilson has used that phone, too, this summer to converse with Illini coaches and a few players who could be future college teammates.
"I've gotten a chance to talk with a couple of the Illinois players, Willie Argo and guys like that," he said. "And you kind of understand how good of a program they have over there. But in addition to that, it's a wonderful opportunity."
Argo's return likely. Like Tilson, Argo was selected in the draft. And like Tilson, the 43rd-round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates remains unsigned.
Illini coach Dan Hartleb would be surprised if at least one of these outfielders isn't on the field when UI fall practice starts.
"At this point, we expect him back," Hartleb said of Argo. "And he's kind of indicated that he will be. But until the 15th (of August) you still don't know for sure."
Anderson on UI staff. Hartleb said Monday that former Illini pitcher Jason Anderson is joining his staff as a volunteer assistant coach.
That position was filled the previous two years by Drew Dickinson, who was named UI pitching coach on Aug. 3.
Anderson, a Danville native, retired from professional baseball last month. Between them, Dickinson and Anderson won 59 games during their Illini playing careers, and both still rank among the UI's all-time top three in career wins.
Hartleb was the pitching coach for each throughout their college careers.
"I haven't been around any pitchers that competed better than these two," he said.