Photo by Bill Roseberry
Alton senior Nick Cauley was celebrated at AHS on Nov. 17 as he inked a letter of intent to play baseball at Northwestern University after his prep career is over. Pictured (from left) are Rebecca Cauley, mother; Nick Cauley and Todd Haug, head baseball coach of the Redbirds.
Imagine boasting a 90-plus mph fastball and a 4.5 GPA — that’s a dream for a college when searching for a new recruit.
Alton High senior Nick Cauley is lucky enough to have both those attributes and now he has a scholarship to Northwestern University to continue his education and his baseball career.
“Nick is a tremendous athlete, but at the same time he’s also tremendous in the classroom and I think it’s symbolic on his part to choose a school where he can excel in both avenues,” AHS head baseball coach Todd Haug said.
Cauley announced over the summer he would become a Wildcat, but made it official at a small gathering with family, friends and coaches at AHS on Nov. 17.
Northwestern, a member of the Big Ten Conference, beat out Saint Louis University and Missouri State in a tremendous trio of choices for the 6-foot-1, 180-pound senior righty pitcher for the Redbirds.
“It was a tough decision, but I’m happy with my choice,” Cauley said.
There were multiple factors leading to Cauley’s college choice, some athletically driven and some academically, but he can’t go wrong with the prodigious institution he chose.
“I feel like the whole package that I’m getting is electrifying,” Cauley said. “I love the campus, the opportunity they give me with academics and then the baseball program, I like the new coach (Spencer Allen). It’s definitely bringing life into the program and I like where it’s headed and I’m really excited for it.
“The campus is ridiculously beautiful. It’s a combination of gothic architecture and modern buildings and it’s right on Lake Michigan, so it’s very nice. There’s a beach. I’m just excited about everything. It’s a great campus.
“I like the facilities they have to offer, too. I think I’m going to develop pretty well there.”
He joins a laundry list of high-profile players that have come out of Haug’s Redbird program over the last seven seasons. This will be his eighth at the helm.
Each time a player inks a deal like this, it brings more exposure to the program.
“I think in general we’re on a nice run of Division I talent,” Haug said. “It started off as SIUE transitioned to Division I with Nick Lombardo going out there and having a tremendous career. Then Brent Gibbs with Indiana and now signing with USC, which is a baseball mecca out there, and with Bryan Hudson in professional baseball and sending Matt Hopkins to the Air Force Academy. These are not only good people, but outstanding athletes — complete packages.”
Cauley fits that bill, too. His academic and athletic prowess make him really stand out, according to Haug.
“In terms of maturity level, he’s a man among boys,” Haug said.
The velocity on his fastball makes him a man among boys, also. He reaches 93 MPH on the radar gun — and maybe beyond — but Haug said his evolution as a pitcher has made him much more than just a hard thrower now.
As a junior, he was 5-2 with a 4.71 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 32.3 innings pitched. Haug expects better command and presence from him in 2016.
“When he came out of our underclass programs we looked at him and thought, ‘This kid throws like (Tim) Lincecum or something,’” Haug said. “Now he’s toned it down a little bit. You can’t just rare back and throw, you have to have a mound presence, hold runners, be able to field your position and I think he’s worked to that.”
Cauley, who had some shoulder tenderness slow him late in his junior season, agrees with his coach. He thinks he’s worked hard to improve.
“I feel great,” Cauley said. “We’re beyond that and I’ve only felt stronger and stronger each day.
“Over the summer I just got in a lot better shape and my command improved. I think that’s due to the work I was doing with Todd Stein, my summer coach with the Recruits. We’re looking to maintain that and hopefully take that into the high school season.”
Cauley urged his teammates hoping to play ball at the next level to work hard in the classroom and the weight room equally and maybe that dream can become a reality like it did for him.
“I can’t express enough the hard work you have to put in on the academic side,” Cauley said. “That’s what recruiters look for first. It will help out substantially in the recruiting process. Beyond that, getting in the gym every day. I think the consistency is what has helped me and a couple others. You’ve got to be putting in work every day. You can’t just go once in awhile; it’s an everyday thing.”
The hardest thing for Cauley will be to leave behind his Redbird duds.
“I’m going to miss just about everything,” Cauley said. “I’m going to miss all the players. There’s too much to try and describe. I’ll miss the Alton area for the next few years, but every time I’ll be back it will be a great time.”
Luckily he’s got one last hurrah this spring before he hangs it up for Alton. He hopes the Birds can return to the 30-win plateau in ‘16, a school record in victories set in ‘15.
“I’m pretty confident we can come near that 30-win mark again,” he said. “I’m not trying to do too much, besides help my team have a good chance to win every game.”
Cauley is still undecided on a major at Northwestern, but he knows the field he wants in.
“I think I’m going to major in biological sciences; I’m not sure yet,” Cauley said. “I know I want to go down the medical career path.”
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