Fletcher remembered as 'great part of our Illinois history'

Fletcher remembered as 'great part of our Illinois history'

CHAMPAIGN — Tom Fletcher left a fairly indelible mark on Illinois baseball. Even playing just the one season for the Illini, as his family is inextricably linked with the program.

The left-handed pitcher out of Elmira, N.Y., earned All-Big Ten and All-American honors in 1962 at Illinois. He made his MLB debut in September of that year, appearing in one game for the Detroit Tigers.

A blood cot in his throwing shoulder cost him the next season and another chance at the big leagues, but he played in the minor leagues from 1964-68.

Fletcher died Wednesday evening at OSF Sacred Heart Medical Center in Danville, leaving behind a legacy at Illinois that extended past his one-season career. He was 75. Funeral services are still to be determined.

Darrin Fletcher followed in his father's steps to Illinois, earning his own All-American honors in 1987 before turning his standout run with the Illini into a 14-year MLB career. His son, Casey, was a key member of Illinois' 50-win Big Ten title team in 2015 and returned to the Illini as a volunteer assistant coach in 2017 after playing two seasons of independent professional baseball.

"The Fletcher family is a great part of our Illinois history," Illinois coach Dan Hartleb said Thursday. "I've got tremendous respect for Darrin and Casey, the things that they did here. I had an opportunity to meet Tom a number of years ago when Darrin was involved with our Dugout Club.

"I really respected Tom as well. A gentle man and a gentlemen and just a person that loved the game, loved life and was a really good human being. He's someone that we'll all miss."

Tom Fletcher was in Champaign last weekend for Illinois' series finale against Ohio State, maintaining his close tie to the program.

"I know he and Darrin and Casey had conversations about our upcoming series," Hartleb said. Illinois (27-16, 11-7 Big Ten) will open its three-game series at Michigan (31-14, 14-3) at 2 p.m. today. "He was plugged in all the time and absolutely loved Illinois baseball. They had talked about this series and the importance of it."

Casey Fletcher left with the Illini travel party Thursday for Ann Arbor.

"Darrin and Casey came to the conclusion that Tom would have wanted him there," Hartleb said, "so he needs to go take care of business on the baseball field."

Hartleb wasn't sure what sort of memorial Illinois would have for Tom Fletcher, but he said he something would likely take place during the Illini's final home series against Nebraska starting May 17.