A Conversation with an Illini: Charlie Naso

The Illini baseball team huddles before the start of their game against Notre Dame on May 30 at Illinois Field.

By Kevin McCarthy

Illini relief pitcher Charlie “Chuck” Naso is a savage. This week I sat down with the right-hander to talk about the team’s magical 2015 season, meeting David Price and my chances at touching his heater.

Kevin McCarthy: I heard you guys were pretty good last season. How fun was that?

Charlie Naso: Last year was pretty surreal. When we were going through the streak, we didn’t relish the moment because we were just living in that moment at that time.

KM: During the 28-game winning streak — what were conversations like between teammates? Did you talk about it or is there some unwritten baseball rule that doesn’t allow you to?

CN: We were definitely talking about the streak. It got to the point where we were so cocky about it that we just knew we were going to win the game. There were some superstitions, too — everyone had long hair. Usually (Manager) Dan (Hartleb) doesn’t let guys have facial hair, so he let some stuff slide during it. As soon as we lost, he’s like, “Get haircuts and shave your faces.” Then, the dream was over.

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KM: No facial hair — are you guys the New York Yankees?

CN: We just want to look clean-cut and presentable. It’s not as much about on the field, we just want to represent the team in a good light.

KM: I guess I won’t be able to make the team any time soon then with my hair. Hartleb and I will have to talk. Anyway, you guys lost in the super regional to the defending national champions. How did it feel knowing that you could compete with the best?

CN: We played them tough. In the end, they just had more experience on that big of a stage. In the beginning of the year, our team went on a trip to the Dominican Republic and Vanderbilt was on our flight. We played them in sand volleyball down there — they beat us in that, too.

KM: How’s your sand volleyball game?

CN: I’m pretty brutal — got the credit card hops.

KM: Vanderbilt Alum and Toronto Blue Jays’ ace David Price was in attendance for last year’s series against Vanderbilt. What was it like to see him out there?

CN: He was a really genuine and nice dude. He told us he wanted to go play for the Cubs when he hit free-agency, which was tough to hear as a die-hard Chicago White Sox fan.

KM: What was it like to play with Tyler Jay?

CN: Ty’s real cool. It was just amazing to watch him pitch last year. I just lose words when I talk about his pitching — it’s just gross. Guys had no chance against him. As far as Ty as a person, he’s just super humble.

KM: How did it hit you when he got drafted sixth overall?

CN: We were in the bullpen during the Vanderbilt game. His dad kept taking calls, and then comes up to me and says, “You’re going to be really happy,” because he thought Jay was going be taken by the White Sox with the eighth pick. So we went into the clubhouse to watch it on TV, and then the Twins we’re on the clock. Then, I saw his phone go off. I was pretty disappointed that he went to a division rival.

But for real, it gave me goose bumps. When he was a freshman he used to sleep on my couch. Now, he’s a first round draft pick.

KM: How many years will we be watching him play in the bigs?

CN: You’ll be watching him for a while. He’s special.

KM: What’s your favorite memory from your time here at Illinois?

CN: The whole 28-game-win streak was nuts. We’d get on the bus and be singing and dancing to “Peanut Butter and Jelly” by Galantis.

KM: Did Hartleb get in on those dance parties?

CN: No. He had some choice words every time he’d see us dancing.

KM: What makes him such a good manager?

CN: At first, you think he’s against you, but then you realize he’s tough on you because he wants to see you do better. I think every guy that comes into this program leaves a much better man than when they came in because of him.

KM: Tell me a couple of bullpen stories.

CN: There was a video of us last year at Penn State where we wouldn’t use our hands to get into the bullpen. So guys were falling over into the bullpen live on Big Ten Network.

We usually send a kid in the bathroom for a full inning if we need some offense. Just lock him in there and make him sweat it out until the inning is over. You get bored out there sometimes.

KM: I was told by former Daily Illini employee, Sam Sherman, to ask you about “savages.”

CN: In the beginning of the season we had “savage Sunday.” We weren’t allowing ourselves to say the word savage until Sunday. When the clock hit midnight, everyone would start texting and snap chatting about savage Sunday. We would just go nuts. You couldn’t say the s-word until Sunday or you’d get screamed at.

KM: You’re about to head into a fight. You can bring two teammates, armed with baseball bats, who do you take?

CN: Pat (McInerney) and Cody Sedlock. Actually no, I’ll take Quentin Sefcik over Pat Mac. I want you to quote this on there, “Quentin Sefcik is a savage.” He is a savage with everything he does. He’s crazy. He’s a guy I want on my side.

KM: So you three vs. three Pat McInerneys — who wins?

CN: Three Pat McInerneys? That’s a girthy fight. The Pat Macs might prevail in that situation. I’m gonna get beat up pretty quickly by one of him, so then it’s three on two and that’s tough. Quentin Sefcik is a dark horse though — he might just shock the world.

KM: Can I try to hit a fastball of yours at some point?

CN: Yeah, we can make that happen. You’ll probably just smoke it out of the park the way I’m pitching right now. Do you have any experience?

KM: I mean I stopped playing in eighth grade so I think you might be alright.

CN: I guess I might scoot a few by you then. But with this old arm, I need like seven layers of Icy-Hot and 20 aleve before it gets going.

Kevin is a sophomore in Media.

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