Male Illini of the Year: Bren Spillane

Male Illini of the Year: Bren Spillane

Why he's our male athlete of the year: The third-round MLB draft pick had an unparalleled season in Illinois baseball history. The Wheeling native and consensus first-team All-American was the first-ever Illini to earn a national player of the year honor after claiming the Big Ten Player of the Year award after taking the league's regular-season triple crown. He finished with a .389 average, 23 home runs and 60 RBI.

How would you describe the last year?

It was a fun year. We won some games and made the most of it. It's always good to be in the lineup every single day and help the team win. That's the only thing that you really want to do and focus on. To be able to do that and play the full season was exciting.

Is there a moment that stood out from this past season?

Definitely a memorable moment was when we swept (at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis) in the Big 10/Pac-12 matchup. That was some of the most fun baseball we played as far as every single game was a team win. We all had an equal part of it, and it felt real good to win there. Just the season overall as a whole, it was a lot of fun coming to the park every day. We grew really close in the fall off the field as far as relationships built day in and day out. Getting to know everyone even more than the previous years and really getting to know them was a lot more fun.

What's the outlook for next season for your former teammates?

I think they're going to be able to do special things. It's a very talented group and a very well-coached team. It's just a matter of going out and executing. They've got all the talent in the world. It's just a matter of going out and doing it.

How has the start of your professional career gone?

It's good. It's been fun, and it's definitely something different. There's definitely a lot of learning that goes along with it, but it's good and a challenge. It makes you better as a player and as a person, and I'm just excited to get this going and play every day. It definitely helps having some older guys go through it that were players in the past at Illinois and are friends that I have that are doing it now also. I definitely had a lot of help along the way, and I'll continue to have that help and support. It's a grind — it is — but it's a lot of fun. There's definitely nothing else on this earth I'd rather be doing.

Do you have a favorite place on campus or in C-U that made being at Illinois special?

Just getting off the highway and getting on campus is a really good feeling. Campus as a whole is special to me, and it's a place I'll forever call home.

Past Male Athletes of the Year

YEAR — COACH, SPORT

2017 — Malcolm Hill, basketball

2016 — Isaiah Martinez, wrestling

2015 — Isaiah Martinez, wrestling

2014 — Jesse Delgado, wrestling

2013 — Justin Parr, baseball

2012 — Andrew Riley, track and field

2011 — Mikel Leshoure, football

2010 — Scott Langley, men's golf

2009 — Paul Ruggeri, gymnastics

2008 — Rashard Mendenhall, football

2007 — Kevin Anderson, tennis

2006 — Justin Spring, gymnastics

2005 — Luther Head, basketball

2004 — Brian Wilson, tennis

2003 — Matt Lackey, wrestling