As Robinson High School's baseball program continues to rise, so have the opportunities for their players to continue their careers at the next level.
The latest to take that step is senior Brayden Childress, who recently signed his letter-of-intent to play at Rend Lake College after his RHS career is finished.
"This has been a lifelong dream of mine to play in college," Childress said. "To see it come true is awesome."
"Once again, the RHS baseball program and everyone involved is really proud of one of our guys," RHS head coach Reggie Truitt said. "Brayden is a great young man with a lot of talent and a ton of potential. Two signings in two weeks (Kade Lassen recently signed to play at Lincoln Trail College) is something that doesn't happen often and we're enjoying the moment."
Childress has been a regular in the RHS line-up since his freshman year and currently boasts a .394 career batting average (61-155) through three seasons. Included in that are seven home runs, 16 doubles, 49 runs scored and 39 runs batted in.
On the mound, his career ERA is a bit high at 4.15, but he has struck out 129 batters in just 87 innings, while walking only 48 during that span. He has pitched in 26 games over his three seasons, compiling an 11-5 record with five saves, which included a 7-1 record with one save this past season.
"Chili is the alpha, the stud," Truitt said. "He's got great size, a great frame to work with and he is athletic. He gets people out on the mound, can play a couple different positions defensively, hits for power, hits for average and runs really well for his size."
When he gets to Rend Lake, he will continue to play both in the field and be on the mound, as the coaches there view him as a vital piece to their program.
"His potential to be a two-way athlete fills a lot of holes for us," Rend Lake assistant coach Drew Millwood said. "We are excited about his pitching, his size, his frame, as well as his work in the classroom, in the field and in the weight room, plus all the success he's already had in baseball. We don't recruit exclusively multi-sport athletes, but his athletic ability is a big plus."
Childress is expected to compete for a spot in Rend Lake's starting rotation right away, while playing either third or first base when he's not pitching and hitting in the middle of their order.
"He will be brought in to compete for a starting spot," Millwood said. "We expect him to compete for innings right away. We look at him to play one of the corner spots and probably be anywhere from three to six in our line-up. We expect him to be a big bat for us."
Childress believes he will fit right in at Rend Lake and is looking forward to the opportunity to play at the next level.
"I believe I will fit in good," Childress said. "As soon as I met the coaches and got on campus, it felt like home. I also met some of the guys and we became fast friends, plus one of my travel ball teammates is going to Rend Lake, too. It just felt like the place I needed to be and a place where I could develop my game the most."
He not only wants to see his skills develop, but he wants to be able to take them to the next level and hopefully beyond.
"I want to be a JUCO All-American and then transfer to an SEC school after I'm done at Rend Lake," Childress said. "I have also always had a goal to play professional sports, so I would love to make it to the MLB."
Childress knows he will have to put in a lot of work to get to that level, but he is willing to do whatever it takes and his coaches believe he will as well.
"I will have to put in extra time and never skip a workout," Childress said. "I need to focus on my game and learn what it takes to get to that next level.
"Brayden gets it that he's been blessed with genetics. He has a great arm, great size and a great frame. Yet he works to make those things even better, not just relying on his natural ability," Truitt said. "He does the throwing programs, weight training and running that's needed to stay on track. I don't expect the college lifting and throwing programs will be much of a shock to him."
"I think the potential is there for him to go wherever he wants to go," Millwood said. "He will get every opportunity to reach those goals while he is here. It will come down to how hard he works and how he performs. I don't think there are any limitations on what Brayden Childress can do. As long as the focus, demeanor and determination are where we believe they are, he will be on to bigger and better things after he is done at Rend Lake."
Regardless of where he ends up when it's all said and done, Truitt is proud to have had a player of Childress' caliber in his program.
"Once again, RHS baseball has been really lucky to have Brayden in the program for the last three years," Truitt said. "Rend Lake is getting a quality young man and a great baseball player."