Joe Aeilts

Former Champaign Central baseball player Joe Aeilts, right, poses for a photo with Boise Hawks teammates Zak Baayoun, left, and Aaron Schunk after a game last month.

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Joe Aeilts was one of four ex-Champaign Central baseball players selected in the 2019 MLB Draft, with the Colorado Rockies picking him in the 14th round. He’s quickly found positive results playing Class A short-season ball for the Boise Hawks, boasting a .418 batting average with one home run and seven RBI in 15 games. Preps coordinator COLIN LIKAS chatted with the recent Illinois State star — and reigning Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year:

What has it been like going so quickly from playing in the college ranks to becoming a professional baseball player?

It’s been a lot of fun. Definitely the game is at a different level now, but it’s still the same game you’ve been playing since you were a kid. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’ve really enjoyed getting started.

I got drafted on a Wednesday, I think, and then that Sunday they had me flying out to Boise, and that’s where I’ve been.

You’re off to a strong start hitting the ball. Have you simply carried over your approach from Illinois State?

I’ve just had the benefit of working with some great school coaches that have helped me lock in on an approach that works for me. The coaches in the Rockies organization, too, have done a great job getting us ready to hit every day, having us locked in and ready to go, putting together some good at-bats. It’s another step up.

What do you remember about your first plate appearance with Boise?

My first plate appearance was on the road in Salem-Keizer. I actually got hit by a pitch. I got hit on an inside fastball. Honestly, I was a little nervous for the first at-bat. No matter the result, it’s just kind of nice to get in there and get that first at-bat done with.

As I was running down to first, I was like, ‘All right, it’s still the same game. It’s still baseball.’

What are some of your goals in your first season?

I’m just trying to find a routine and settle in to playing baseball every day. I’ve just got to stay healthy and find a way to keep my body in good shape and be mentally prepared to go out and compete every day.

How’s living in Boise?

I love the Midwest, but I’ve really enjoyed it out here. It’s different. It’s a lot more mountainous, but I’ve enjoyed getting to see this part of the country.

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Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).