CHICAGO, Ill. – The 2018 Illinois Tech baseball season featured just two senior members on a young squad: starting pitcher and All-WIAC Sportsmanship Team selection James Tarala and second baseman DJ Rybski. Upon completion of the duo's collegiate careers, both players have signed elsewhere. Tarala is in Mississippi with Vickie Pasley of the National Urban Professional Baseball League, while Rybski is currently playing in Ireland with the Dublin City Hurricanes of the Irish Baseball League.
"We are so proud of Jimmy to have earned this opportunity to play professional baseball," said Illinois Tech Head Coach Ed Zeifert. "As a baseball player, Jimmy always responded to challenges. He was able to transform his game from the time our coaching staff arrived to the day he left, and we couldn't be more proud of what he has accomplished."
"Simply put: DJ is a baseball player," Zeifert continued. "Whether he's playing for Illinois Tech, overseas, or on a Chicago Men's Rec League, DJ is getting another opportunity to be exactly who is he and do exactly what it is that he wants to do. His greatest strength to our team was his passion for the sport, and I could think of no better person to help spread the game internationally than DJ Rybski."
Tarala's opportunity comes on the heels of a successful senior season, leading the Scarlet Hawks with 11 starts, 49 strikeouts, and 67.2 innings pitched. He finished the season with four victories, a 4.26 earned run average, and 6.52 strikeouts per nine innings. In addition, he was a member of the 2015 United States Collegiate Athletic Association runner-up team, where he once again led the Scarlet Hawks with 49.2 innings pitched as a sophomore. For his career, Tarala finished with a 17-14 record in 46 appearances (36 starts) and 216 and 1/3 innings pitched, striking out 151 hitters (6.3 per nine innings), tossing nine complete games, and recording a 5.08 earned run average.
"I am extremely excited to be able to fulfill a childhood dream," said Tarala. "My whole life, I have been told I won't be able to make teams, I don't throw hard enough, and that I need to work harder. Well it is all of those things that make this moment that much more meaningful."
Rybski came to Illinois Tech after playing two years at Indiana Tech, immediately making an impact for the program, hitting .303 with 13 RBI, 18 runs scored, and a home run in his junior year before driving in 13 more and recording another home run as a senior. He finished his career with a .272/.307/.336 slashline, 63 hits, 32 runs, seven doubles, one triple, two home runs, 25 RBI, 13 walks, and six stolen bases in 67 games for the Scarlet Hawks.
"Having the opportunity to play after college is something most kids dream about," said Rybski. "The fact that I'm able to experience a whole new part of the world while doing it makes it that much cooler."
Both players know the time spent at Illinois Tech was instrumental in not only growing as a baseball player, but growing as men.
"Illinois Tech has taught me that no matter what is in front of you, if you go at it with the right mindset, the right people around you, and the motivation, you can do amazing things," said Tarala.
"I've been give every opportunity to grow on and off the field at Illinois Tech," Rybski said. "Coach Z has always preached the importance of family and what it means to make sacrifices, and because of that, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by 25 of the most selfless guys I've ever played with."