Copeland Among Four With Redbird Ties Selected In MLB Draft
Ryan Copeland
Ryan Copeland

June 9, 2010

NORMAL, Ill. - What do you get a kid who suddenly has it all? That's the question Timothy Copeland is asking himself after watching his son, Ryan Copeland, a senior left-handed pitcher for Illinois State become one of four players with ties to the Redbirds drafted in the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft. Ryan, who celebrates his 22nd birthday Thursday, was selected in the 32nd round by the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday.

"About the only thing that would top this would be a Lamborghini - I don't know if there's anything that can top this," Timothy Copeland said. "I'm so happy for him, he's worked so hard. From tee-ball on, it's such a long road to get to where he's at. A lot of people don't know the work and effort and the sacrifices they make, but he's always loved the game. He loves to eat, so I'll get him the best dinner I can find."

There's little doubt that Ryan, a die-hard Chicago Blackhawks fans, will press pause on any celebration as he watches his favorite NHL team vie for the Stanley Cup Wednesday night, needing just one win against the Philadelphia Flyers to break championship drought that dates to 1961. At this point, any success by the Hawks would be icing on Copeland's cake.

"I've been joking around with some people that this could be the best 24 hour span of my life - getting drafted, the `Hawks playing for the Stanley Cup and then it's my birthday," Ryan Copeland said. "It still really hasn't hit me yet. It's been my lifelong dream to play pro ball. I've always wanted to make it to the Major Leagues, now I have that chance if I work hard and make the most of it."

Copeland, a starter for most of his first three seasons at Illinois State, struggled in his first seven outings before becoming one of Illinois State's shut down relievers and helping the Redbirds to the most wins for the program (32) since 1999, the team's first-ever Missouri Valley Conference Regular-Season Championship, and the team's first NCAA Tournament win since 1976.

 

 

Copeland, who posted a 3-1 record with a 2.09 ERA in 24 appearances as a reliever, was named First Team All-Missouri Valley Conference along with bullpen mate Kenny Long. As a reliever, Copeland limited opposing batters to a .175 average and fanned 53 in 43 innings.

"It was a great season for us and it's continued on for me personally," Copeland said. "A big reason why I'm able to get this opportunity is because of our team's success. We had great players and scouts wanted to come out and see us. It's funny how it all comes back to being a team game."

Copeland finished the season 4-5 overall with five saves, and posted a 4.63 ERA in all games pitched. A workhorse on the mound, he became Illinois State's all-time innings pitched leader with 334.0 innings pitched in his career. Copeland is the first Redbird to be drafted since 2008, when former Illinois State players Kevin Dubler and Tyler Cox were drafted by the Chicago White Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates, respectively.

Three future Redbirds, signees Mike Hollenbeck, Johnny Lieske and Brock Stewart, were also selected in the draft. Hollenbeck, a catcher from Joliet, Ill., was picked by the Boston Red Sox in the 14th round; Lieske, a pitcher from Machesney Park, Ill., was selected in the 35th round by the Texas Rangers; and Stewart, an infielder from Normal, Ill., was selected by the New York Mets in the 40th round. The three recruits are part of Illinois State's seven-man early signing class, which included more top-25 Illinois players according to Prep Baseball Report than any other university.

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