A future engineering major with a 4.75 grade-point average, Belleville East junior catcher Drew Millas weighed the academic side of his college choice just as seriously as the baseball program and facilities.
Millas gave a verbal commitment to Missouri State University with a lot of thought put into both sides of the equation.
“They’ve got a new engineering program there and that’s what really made my decision,” said Millas, a three-sport standout at Belleville East who also plays football and basketball. “I knew that the baseball at Missouri State was strong and the facilities were better. My parents were supportive no matter which way I went.”
Millas also had an offer from St. Louis University and plenty of interest from Illinois State, Illinois-Chicago, Kansas, Illinois and Cincinnati. In the end, he picked the same college where his mother, Nell Patton Millas, played women’s basketball, Missouri State.
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Millas’ father, Andy Millas, played football at Missouri Southern and his grandfather, former Belleville East baseball coach Larry Patton, played for Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
“(My grandpa) was happy with wherever I chose, but he was excited I’m going to the same school as my mom did,” Drew Millas said.
Early verbal commitments are becoming a growing trend throughout the country in many sports.
“I just thought I wanted to get it over with before my junior spring season,” Millas said. “I really liked the offers I had on the table and I don’t think any other ones could have gotten much better.”
Millas plays for the St. Louis Pirates travel team in the summer and also played for the Swansea-Fairview Heights American Legion team and Batter’s Box Elite.
Considered an excellent defensive catcher, he hit .316 for Belleville East with four doubles, one triple and 12 RBIs while helping the Lancers reach the regional championship game.
Millas hopes to improve his overall game, but has spent much of the offseason concentrating on adding power to his hitting stroke.
“I’ve been known as a contact hitter, but I want to get more and more power incorporated into my swing,” he said.
Belleville East coach Todd Blomberg said Millas compares favorable to another former Lancers catching standout, former University of Cincinnati and minor-league catcher Jimmy Jacquot.
“I was very happy for Drew,” Blomberg said. “His dream has always been to play college sports and at one point he talked about even trying to play baseball and football. He’s a kid that’s worked very hard and deserves the interest he got from a lot of schools.
“Missouri State has been very good to our area lately and with him going there it helps our kids get even more looks. He went down there and visited and everything was right. They told him he had a shot to come in and compete for a spot right away, which was what he was looking for.”
Missouri State coach Keith Guttin has a history of success with metro-east players, including former Belleville East star Dante Brinkley, former O’Fallon standout Brooks Colvin and former Gibault and major-league pitcher John Rheinecker.
The 2015 Bears’ squad includes sophomore outfielder Blake Graham from Edwardsville and sophomore infielder Aaron Meyer from Belleville West. Graham is hitting .400 through eight games with a homer and seven RBIs while Meyer is hitting .286 in six games.
Other metro-east connections include Granite City native Paul Evans, who has been on Guttin’s coaching staff for 27 years, and new Bears Director of Baseball Operations Derek Mattea from Collinsville.