CHICAGO (CBS) — New Trier High School alum and former Chicago White Sox player Charlie Tilson is trying to get back to the big leagues after his first shot was derailed by injury.
CBS 2’s Matt Zahn caught up with the outfielder, who is making the most of an opportunity with another local pro team, the Chicago Dogs.
“It’s great. You know, it’s just great to be playing baseball to be honest with you,” Tilson said.
“We don’t call it independent ball anymore. It’s professional baseball. It gives players like Charlie, that still have that burn in their gut and their heart, an opportunity to go back with an organization and possibly get back to the big leagues, added Chicago Dogs manager Butch Hobson.
Tilson really seems to be enjoying his time here with the Dogs, maybe even more than he expected, that’s thanks in part to Hobson.
“He’s a great manager. It’s been one of the most enjoyable seasons I’ve had,” Tilson said.
“Out of all the players that have ever played for me, he’s up there at the top as far as his character, and he’s a tremendous player also,” said Hobson, who also managed the Boston Red Sox from 1992 through 1994.
“I think the competitiveness of it is what’s surprised me. You play for Butch, you feel like you’re playing in the big leagues,” Tilson said.
Of course, Tilson knows what it’s like to play in the big leagues. The Wilmette native, who was originally drafted in the 2nd round by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011, got his first taste of the majors with the White Sox, the team he grew up cheering for.
“Having an opportunity to put on a White Sox uniform was incredible, and something I’m so grateful for. From a player perspective, I wish I’d done more,” he said.
Injuries were a big reason why Tilson wasn’t able to do more with the White Sox, starting with a devastating blow in his MLB debut in 2016. He suffered a torn hamstring chasing down a fly ball.
“It was a big injury. I relied heavily on my speed. I was a young player with my bat still developing. Losing that tool for a short period time was tough,” Tilson said.
It was one of multiple injuries for Tilson, who did two more seasons with the White Sox in 2018 and 2019, but wasn’t able to make the impact he had hoped he would.
“For that period of time, it was really tough. I was a White Sox fan first, as a kid. I cared about helping that organization win, so to not really feel like I was being able to put my best product out there was tough. That’s the nature of business,” he said.
And now that business has brought him back to Chicago. After sitting out 2020 because of the pandemic, and spending last season with the Philadelphia Phillies’ triple-A squad, Tilson is still chasing his MLB dream.
“Ultimately, I want to get back to affiliated ball and hopefully get back to the big leagues,” Tilson said.
Does he think he’ll do it?
“Absolutely, I think I’m as equipped now as I’ve ever been. I don’t want to sound arrogant. Playing in the big leagues is an extremely difficult feat. I’m confident when I have my toolset that I’ m a player that’s very capable of playing at that level,” he said.
Tilson is near the top of the team in batting average at .311, and the Chicago Dogs are in first place in the eastern division of the American Association.