Former pro baseball player, now coach is new radio analyst for Galesburg boys basketball
GALESBURG — Growing up, Jeremy Pickrel thought his athletic success would come as a basketball player.
The 2001 Galesburg High School grad hit the hardwood and played baseball for the Silver Streaks.
“Basketball, I thought that was my sport, and we won a regional my senior year," Pickrel said before Friday's home Western Big 6 Conference boys basketball game between the Streaks and the Maroons of Moline. "I was three years behind Joey (Range). I was watching him when I was growing up, and all those guys — Taylor Thiel, Steve Glasgow, Rod Thompson — before me made you want play basketball. That’s what you planned on doing.
"When you’re a senior and you’re actually playing in Thiel Gym and it’s packed there’s nothing better.”
During his senior year, Pickrel committed to play basketball for Monmouth College. After a breakout spring in his final time repping Galesburg on diamonds, Pickrel opted to continue his academic and baseball career at Illinois State University.
"When I initially committed to Monmouth College, I was recruited as a basketball player and then a baseball player. I was going to try to play soccer there, too," Pickrel said. “After my senior year is when ISU came in.”
The Minnesota Twins drafted Pickrel in the 10th round of the 2004 MLB Draft. Pickrel was a member of the organization for three seasons before he was released in the spring of 2007. Pickrel then played two seasons of indy ball for three different teams in the Can Am League before calling it a career.
Pickrel was named Galesburg's baseball coach before the 2018 season, and his main job is as an outreach worker for District 205. He also is now sitting next to WGIL's Brad Bennewitz during the 2021-22 season for Galesburg boys basketball games. Pickrel's serving as a color man.
“I had heard that Brad was looking for somebody and he didn’t ask me right away because I have four kids, I coach baseball and I don’t think he really thought that I’d be interested and I don’t know if I really was at first," Pickrel said. "I was talking it over with my wife and she said ‘if you want to do it then do it.’ She’s always been supportive of the things I want to do and decide to do.
“I approached Brad and I wasn’t sure I could do it. I’ve never done it before but I’ve been interviewed plenty of times and talked on the radio and on TV and things like that," Pickrel added. "I’m not completely foreign to the concept, and it’s been fun.”
It hasn't been easy for "Pick" in the early going.
“It’s way tougher than it looks," Pickrel said. "I knew Brad was good but I didn’t realize that he was that good. He is as good as it gets at what he does. I was trying to keep up with him as far as stats and things like that go but after the first game I was like ‘Brad, I can’t do what you do.’
"I feel like each game I’ve kind of settled in and gotten a little bit better each time," Pickrel added. "Brad has been nothing but helpful and supportive, too. I want Brad to give me feedback. I want him to let me know if there’s something I need to correct. I’m not going to go into anything half hearted. If I’m going to do this I want to be as good as I can at it."
Heading into his side gig, Pickrel didn't take many notes about being a TV or radio personality.
"With four kids, I watch cartoons — Bluey, Blues Clues and all that — but it wasn’t too difficult to get into the basketball mode because I follow pretty closely," Pickrel said. "I’m at all the home games anyway. I enjoy Galesburg basketball. I want them to do well."
And Pickrel likes what he sees from Chad Thompson's Streaks.
“They’re athletic. They’re super athletic," Pickrel said. "The fun part about this team is they play extremely well together.
"With the combination of athleticism and size, they could have a really special season.”
Matthew Wheaton can be reached at (309) 315-6073 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @matthewlwheaton