JUPITER, FL (KMOV.com) – In 2014, top Cardinal prospect Charlie Tilson’s career was stalling. Drafted in the second round of the 2011 amateur draft, Tilson advanced quickly and in 2013, hit .303 in high Class A ball for the Palm Beach Cardinals.
But 2014 was a major setback. He hit .237 in Class AA at Springfield and was sent back to Palm Beach. “I had a sharp pain in my groin,” Tilson said. “I could still play but it was constant pain. I changed the way I ran and I got a stress fracture because I was overcompensating to avoid the discomfort.”
Working with the Cards’ training staff and ultimately a specialist, Tilson discovered he had a sports hernia. A sports hernia is a painful, soft tissue injury that occurs in the groin area. It most often occurs during sports that require sudden changes of direction or intense twisting movements. Although a sports hernia may lead to a traditional, abdominal hernia, it is a different injury. A sports hernia is a strain or tear of any soft tissue (muscle, tendon, ligament) in the lower abdomen or groin area, according to medical web sites.
Tilson’s game is built on speed and the constant violent shifting motion of stealing bases and accelerating for fly balls caused the injury. He had it repaired in the offseason, missed no playing time and came back in 2015 at 100 percent. He hit .295 at Class AA Springfield and stole 46 bases, flashing the speed the Cardinals sorely need. He was named both Mid-Season All Star and Post-Season All Star in the Texas League. That performance earned him an invitation to the Cards’ big league spring training camp.
One of Tilson’s main attributes is his even disposition and ability to leave a bad performance behind him. “I didn’t have many 0-4 games in high school,” he says. “When I was in Peoria (Class A), I realized I did not really understand the game. I had to learn the fundamentals and the right way to play. I had to learn to control my at-bats and maximize my opportunities.”
Tilson said he learned how to anticipate what pitches may be coming, how a pitcher might attack him and what sequence certain catchers like to use. “In professional baseball, you’re out there every day. You have more at-bats. You have to put the bad days behind you.”
The injury that slowed but did not damage his career taught him the importance of taking care of his body and to pace himself over the long summer. “You can’t keep your foot on the gas the whole season. That will help you recover (and keep you in the lineup) over the course of a long season.”
As his average hovers consistently around .300, he continues to develop and hone his base-stealing techniques with the help of former Cardinal Willie McGee. “I’m learning how to pick the right pitch to go on, clean up my form and get myself in the right position before the pitch,” he said. “Willie has helped me be fearless; I have to believe that the catcher cannot throw me out. He is just one of the guys (when he is coaching). He wants to know what you are thinking. He doesn’t tell you ‘do this or do that.’ You know, my way or the highway. He wants to know you.”
Tilson continues to develop all aspects of his game as he grinds toward a shot at the majors in the next few years. “I just go day-by-day. Wherever I land, I just want to help the team and someday, hopefully, make an impact at the major league level.”