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TJ McQuillan already makes mark for Mount Carmel

Before he even played a baseball game at Mount Carmel, TJ McQuillan had a reputation as a highly touted prospect who already had his college plans locked up.

McQuillan committed to Louisville shortly before his freshman season last year. That provided some major motivation for opponents to get him out.

Now a sophomore infielder/outfielder, McQuillan knows that aspect is still there, but he isn’t too worried about pitchers being out to get him.

“There’s a little bit more celebrating when I strike out or pop up or whatever, but you just kind of have to ignore it,” McQuillan said. “I know guys really want to get me out, but I’m trying to be the hardest out for a pitcher.”

Batting in the middle of the Caravan lineup last season as a freshman, McQuillan was definitely a tough out. He hit .360 with five home runs.

He made quite the first impression on Mount Carmel coach Brian Hurry.

“We saw it early in our preseason practices, and we were confident he was going to be a bat that was going to help us,” Hurry said. “But then he found himself in the middle of our order, which is most impressive for any freshman with the competition we play.

“He was able to stay calm, slow the game down and give us quality at-bats.”

Mount Carmel's T.J. McQuillan in Chicago on Saturday, March 23, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson/for the Daily Southtown)
Mount Carmel’s TJ McQuillan, a Louisville, is ready for practice in Chicago on Saturday, March 23, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson / Daily Southtown)

Hurry would prefer players wait until they’re a bit older to commit to a college, but McQuillan may be an exception to that rule.

“I’m not the biggest fan of kids committing to college before high school or even their freshman year,” Hurry said. “The worry for me is kids think they’ve already arrived, but the reality is they’ve got to get a lot better in order to compete at those schools.

“Lucky for us, TJ is a self-motivated kid. He’s mature and he knows he has to get better to ever see the field at Louisville. As good as he is, where he is now is not good enough.”

McQuillan knows that, so he’s always putting in extra work. His dad, Tom, aids him in that regard.

Tom McQuillan is a former coach at the University of St. Francis and in the minor leagues who also spent time as a scout.

Mount Carmel shortstop TJ McQuillan (22) lunges for the throw as Brother Rice's Shane Walker (17) slides safely into second base in the second inning of a Catholic League Blue game in Chicago on Thursday, April 27, 2023.

Paul Beaty / Daily Southtown

Mount Carmel’s TJ McQuillan (22) lunges for the throw as Brother Rice’s Shane Walker (17) slides safely into second base in the second inning of a Catholic League Blue game in Chicago on Thursday, April 27, 2023. (Paul Beaty / Daily Southtown)

“We bicker and sometimes argue a little bit, but I think that’s just what fathers and sons do,” TJ said. “But he always helps me. (Friday) night, we were at the cage until like 11:00.

“He was feeding me balls, telling me what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong. When I’m doing things wrong, he tries to calm me down and take my mind off it.”

Senior second baseman Kevin Zanin, a Wisconsin-Stout recruit, is not surprised McQuillan was working late on an off day for the Caravan (2-2).

“Last year, there was a lot of talk about him coming in,” Zanin said. “His work ethic right off the bat was better than half the seniors last year.”

Mount Carmel's T.J. McQuillan talks with teammates during indoor-batting practice in Chicago on Saturday, March 23, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson/for the Daily Southtown)
Mount Carmel’s TJ McQuillan talks with teammates during practice in Chicago on Saturday, March 23, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson / Daily Southtown)

One of McQuillan’s biggest offseason goals was getting prepared to play a bigger defensive role this season.

“Last year, we had a lot of older guys and they had me playing first base a lot,” McQuillan said. “That was fine, but for my future, I don’t want to be a designated hitter, and that’s kind of what you are when you play first in high school.

“This year, I’m ready to stick at third base and play a little bit of outfield, too.”

Hurry is confident McQuillan can play anywhere he is needed. And keep hitting.

“He’s only going to get better,” Hurry said. “It’s almost a coach’s dream when you combine his talent with his work ethic. When you think about what he can accomplish in this game, it’s exciting.”


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