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updated: 6/12/2014 1:30 PM

Healthy finish, bright future for Libertyville's Skoug

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  • Libertyville's Evan Skoug captains the Daily Herald's all-area baseball team for Lake County.

      Libertyville's Evan Skoug captains the Daily Herald's all-area baseball team for Lake County.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Libertyville's Evan Skoug captains the Daily Herald's all-area baseball team for Lake County.

      Libertyville's Evan Skoug captains the Daily Herald's all-area baseball team for Lake County.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Libertyville's Evan Skoug captains the Daily Herald's all-area baseball team for Lake County.

      Libertyville's Evan Skoug captains the Daily Herald's all-area baseball team for Lake County.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Libertyville's Evan Skoug captains the Daily Herald's all-area baseball team for Lake County.

      Libertyville's Evan Skoug captains the Daily Herald's all-area baseball team for Lake County.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Libertyville's Evan Skoug captains the Daily Herald's all-area baseball team for Lake County.

      Libertyville's Evan Skoug captains the Daily Herald's all-area baseball team for Lake County.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

 
 

Everyone wanted to put in his or her two cents.

"Even my doctor, when I went in with mono, had some advice on what I should do," Evan Skoug said.

Skoug, Libertyville's highly-touted catcher, is convinced that the stress of trying to figure out what he should do next in his baseball career played a large part in him getting mono, and missing about three weeks of the baseball season this spring.

Should Skoug go pro if he was drafted? What should his going rate be? Should he just stick with his scholarship offer to TCU?

"I had about a bazillion people talking to me about it, people in school, my friends. It seemed like everyone around me had something to say about it," Skoug said.

Then there were the Major League scouts. They were everywhere, all the time: calling the house, watching his every move at nearly every game.

"The scouts were always calling, wanting to talk about my games, wanting to get my schedule, wanting to talk about money," Skoug said. "Luckily my mom handled a lot of that.

"But they still came around a lot. It was nice that they were interested. It was surreal to have as many as 15 to 20 scouts out at some of my games. But it was also kind of tough sometimes. It got a little stressful.

"I ended up getting pretty ragged, and then I got mono."

And yet, despite the stress, despite all the eyes on him, despite even the mono, Skoug managed to put together a season that was consistent with the reputation that got him all this attention in the first place.

Skoug, a four-year starter who can add honorary captain of the Daily Herald's Lake County all-area team to a list of awards this spring that includes Illinois Gatorade Player of the year, first-team all-state and Baseball America Top 100, also finally figured out what he should do with his baseball future.

During last week's Major League Baseball draft, he chose to forego pro offers that could have netted him a seven-figure signing bonus to instead stick with TCU, which recently qualified for the College World Series.

"I am not losing any sleep over my decision. I know I did the right thing. The number I was hearing (from the scouts for a signing bonus) was past $1 million, but my number was higher than that," Skoug said. "For me, it was really about what I thought I was worth and the number it would take for me to miss out on the college experience and the education I would get."

Skoug, who probably would have been drafted in the second or third round had he been able to agree to terms, wound up dropping to the 34th round, where he was drafted by the Washington Nationals.

"At that point, getting drafted then is really more of a courtesy and the team wanting to start a relationship with you for the future," Skoug said. "I'm hoping that after three years in college, I'll be ready to be drafted in the first round."

The fact that Skoug was ready to be drafted as high as the second round now speaks to his rare combination of natural gifts and work ethic.

"He's got the power of a Major League hitter as an 18-year-old," Libertyville coach Jim Schurr said of Skoug. "He's been blessed with the tools to do that, but he's also worked so hard to get the maximum out of those tools.

"The way he approaches nutrition, the way he works on his techniques and skills, the way he works on the mental part of the game, the way he works on his strength … he's done a lot to make himself better.

"It's been an honor to be around him and to see him evolve and mature. He's surpassed everything I thought he could do."

Opposing base-runners knew exactly what Skoug could do. They rarely dared to challenge his arm strength this season with steal attempts. Offensively, Skoug hit better than .400 with 4 home runs and a .500 on-base percentage. But he was intentionally walked in at least a third of his at-bats.

"It got a little frustrating not getting pitched to very much," Skoug said. "I really like to hit."

Skoug got a chance to show off just how well he can hit while he was on a recent trip to Texas. He and his mom were visiting TCU when scouts from the Texas Rangers invited him to take batting practice at the Ballpark in Arlington.

He wound up hitting 7 home runs.

"It was incredible," Skoug said. "It was one of the best feelings I've had in a while, hitting home runs in a major league park. It made me believe that I really could go out there (in the pros) and compete.

"I was given wonderful gifts and I have worked my tail off to get everything I can out of them. It's been countless hours in the gym, in the cages and on the practice fields."

Now, Skoug can rest a bit…both his body and his mind.

He's going on a family vacation to Africa next week and won't touch a baseball, or even think about baseball. After the spring he's had, he's welcoming the chance for a break.

"It's kind of nice because now the decisions have been made and the stress is over and I don't need to be constantly thinking about what I'm going to be doing with the rest of my life," Skoug said. "I can just worry about what I'm going to be doing for the next 30 minutes. I can kind of live in the moment. I can be a kid again.

"I'm going to go on vacation and have a really great time and then I'll come back and be ready to go to summer school at TCU in July. I'll be ready to get back (to baseball) then."

Skoug is hoping to become a better defensive player at TCU, and to improve how he handles a pitching staff.

"I know God has a plan for me, and if it didn't work out for me to go pro now, it will in three years from now," Skoug said. "I'm going to take advantage of every opportunity I have at TCU and I have full faith that I'm going to come out even better.

"I want to be the best player in the 2017 draft. My goal is to be the No. 1 pick."

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