Cal Baseball: QB-Turned-CF Brandon McIlwain Considered Turning Pro Last Year

Jake Curtis

One of the surprises of last June's Major League Baseball draft was hearing the name of Cal's Brandon McIlwain announced in the 26th round. Just as surprising is the news that McIlwain seriously considered signing a pro baseball contract.

The 2019 season was the first in which McIlwain had focused entirely on baseball. He had played football in the fall of 2018, playing in 10 games and starting two at quarterback. When his position was switched to a combination running back/wide receiver late in the season, his playing time nearly disappeared, and after the season he announced that he had decided to give up football and concentrate only on baseball. He became Cal's starting center fielder.

McIlwain played in just 20 baseball games last year before a broken foot ended his season in March.

Despite that, the Seattle Mariners made McIlwain the fourth pick of the 26th round of the 40-round MLB draf in June.

McIlwain thought about signing.

"Yeah, I definitely did think about signing," he said in the video above. "It's my dream to play in the MLB, and to have that opportunity was such a bleassing, but at the time, hurting my foot in the middle of the season and still being in the reovery process, I wasn't quite ready to go in the draft yet. The ability to have another year here, with these coaches, develop under them, it's priceless."

McIlwain says his foot is completely healthy now and has been since mid-summer.

McIlwain is now a fourth-year junior. He played in eight baseball games as a true freshman at South Carolina in 2016, and played in just one game for the Gamecocks in 2018 before transferring to Cal in February of 2018.

He sat out the 2018 baseball season as a transfer, then in 2019, he played 20 games, including 18 starts in center field. McIlwain hit .258 with two homers last season before the injury.

In an exhibition game against Saint Mary's this season, McIlwain belted a three-run homer.

Cal's season begins with a Feb. 14 game at Long Beach State.

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