Chris Holba is the son of an Air Force pilot who grew up on the move between at least 10 different military bases from Germany to Hawaii to O'Fallon, Illinois.
With no real hometown of his own, Holba inherited the favorite Major League Baseball team of his dad, Col. Bob Holba, who was raised in Chicago.
"It's just the atmosphere I was raised in," Holba said. "But I'm going to have to sell all my Cubs stuff now."
That's because the Cubs' traditional National League rival, the St. Louis Cardinals, used their 11th pick of the 2018 MLB Draft to claim Holba, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound right handed pitcher.
The 2015 graduate of O'Fallon Township High School just completed his third season at East Carolina University in Greenville , N.C. He says he will forgo his final season of college eligibility to sign with his new favorite team.
"I'm blessed to have the opportunity and excited to have been drafted by the Cardinals, who have long history of developing pitchers," said Holba, 21.
St. Louis went heavy on pitchers, drafting 17 of them on the third day alone, including Parker Kelly, the 20th round pick out of Oregon and brother of Cardinals backup catcher Carson Kelly.
Holba says he expects to meet with the organization Thursday to negotiate a signing bonus and accept assignment to its short-season single-A affiliate. That will likely be Johnston City (Tenn.), of the Appalachian League, or State College (Pa.), of the New York-Penn League.
Holba anticipated being taken in a higher round but blamed a poor finish to his third season at East Carolina University for the slide. On the balance, though, it was a solid year for the third-year Pirate, who qualified for the NCAA tournament regional, which they hosted.
Holba finished 9-1 with a 2.99 ERA in 81.1 innings.
"I knew my playing baseball depended on how I pitched this season," he said. "It was a great team to play with and to host a regional. We actually thought I'd go (Tuesday), but it all worked out."
USA Baseball included Holba on its 40-man midseason Golden Spikes Award Watch List last April. The award is presented annually to the top amateur player in the country and includes past winners the likes of Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant.
The recognition was particularly gratifying after what he was going through a year ago. In a game against the Houston Cougars, Holba took a line drive to face, fracturing orbital bones above his right eye.
That was on April 7, 2017. He was back on the mound by May 16, earning the win in two innings of relief wearing a protective cage on his face.
"I had to spend the night in the hospital, flew back with the team and got surgery," Holba recalled. "They ended up putting three plates and a bunch of screws in there, and I missed a month to two months of the season. I wasn't supposed to to come back and pitch that season."
His health restored this spring, the economics major has been a model of consistency on the hill for ECU. He didn't allowed more than two runs in any of his starts, has walked more than two just once and struck out at least eight batters in three starts.
Holba throws four- and one-seam fastballs between 88 and 92 mph. He also throws a "slurve" — a combination of a slider and curveball — and a changeup. He used each during an outstanding senior season for O'Fallon in 2015, going 8-2 with a .87 ERA in a team-high 89 innings. He struck out 108 batters.
Col. Holba has since retired and moved the family once again to Charleston, where it was close enough to see most of Chris Holba college games.
"My parents are as excited as me, no matter who I play for," he said.