Garrett Acton heads to Bay Area

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Photo Courtesy of Fighting Illini Athletics

Senior Garrett Acton winds up for a pitch during competition.

By Rich Eberwein, Staff Writer

Illinois closer Garrett Acton is the latest Illini senior to move on to a professional career. Following the 2020 MLB draft, the Oakland Athletics offered Acton a free agent contract which he accepted two weeks ago.

Acton’s time at Illinois was brief but impactful. Following his sophomore year, the right-hander transferred from Parkland to the University of Illinois where he broke the Big Ten single season saves record after closing out 19 games in his first Illinois season. He went on to set the total saves record for Illinois with 25 total in just a season and a quarter of work. Acton’s Illinois career totals were 39.2 innings pitched with 42 strikeouts and a minute 1.82 ERA.

“Obviously I take a lot of pride having been a baseball player at the University of Illinois and being able to compete with my teammates,” said Acton about his time at Illinois. “I was able to play for some great people who built up an incredible program that I couldn’t be more proud to say that I’ve been a part of for the last two years.”

Acton initially planned on returning to Illinois following the cancellation of the season and was already accepted into a master’s program on campus. Multiple teams contacted Acton in May and The Oakland Athletics stood out to the former Illinois closer for their track record of growing their talent to the major league level among other reasons. Last week, Acton received a physical, and he is now waiting for word on what happens next as a Minor League season looks increasingly unlikely. Whatever happens, Acton said he will continue to remain healthy and wait for his next chance to prove himself on the field, whenever that may be.

“The mindset remains the same,” said Acton. “I still need to remain hungry, focused and to take ownership of my work.  Thankfully I’ve had great people around to help push me. Being able to continue on that path is something that is going to be really important and something I’m confident I will continue to do because I really do take a lot of pride in the work that I put in to being the best version of myself as a player.”

With the departure of ace Ty Weber, setup man Ryan Schmitt and now closer Garrett Acton, the Illini coaches will have significant gaps to fill on their pitching staff for the 2021 season. Head coach Dan Hartleb and his coaching staff wished their seniors farewell in their careers but will have to find new players to take over the prominent roles each one had with the team.

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