All Cary-Grove catcher Drew Stengren wanted was a chance to play college baseball at the highest level.
Central Michigan’s coaching staff offered Stengren that chance as a preferred walk-on, and he jumped at the opportunity.
Stengren, a senior, committed to the NCAA Division I school in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. He will sign his National Letter of Intent next month. Preferred walk-ons are offered roster spots with the understanding they can earn athletic scholarship money the more they contribute.
“It’s been since I was young to be able to play at the Division I level, compete at the highest level,” Stengren said. “I was really excited when they started talking to me. Once things got a little more serious, it was kind of like a dream. It’s awesome.”
Stengren visited CMU last weekend and committed this week. He hit .289 with 13 RBIs and committed only four errors for the Trojans, who won a Class 4A regional title last season. He was a Northwest Herald All-Area honorable mention.
Stengren called his own games behind the plate, a philosophy C-G coach Ryan Passaglia and his predecessor, Don Sutherland, have embraced for years. Stengren also got to catch Quinn Priester, who threw in the 90s and was taken 19th overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the MLB First-Year Player Draft in June.
“He was a great leader for us, especially handling Quinn,” Passaglia said. “He took on a great leadership role. He knows this is just the beginning, that he has to keep working hard.”
Stengren also was looking at D-II Northwood University in Midland, Michigan, and D-III Wisconsin-La Crosse.
“Central has a beautiful campus, and the coaching staff is all really cool guys,” Stengren said. “I’ve been talking to one of their assistant coaches [Tony Jandron] for a really long time. I couldn’t see myself anywhere else.”
Jandron is a nephew of Woodstock North boys basketball coach Dale Jandron. Stengren thought that Central had a coach at the McHenry Sectional semifinal game in June, which C-G won. He said the Chippewas also saw him three times over the summer with the Pro Player Canes travel team.
“I want to bring them a hard-work ethic for sure, be a leader, and just work my butt off to get a starting spot and playing time my freshman year,” Stengren said. “That’s my biggest thing right now. I only think it gets harder. I just have to keep working hard.”