Charlie Tilson picks Cards over Illinois

Former New Trier centerfielder Charlie Tilson agreed to a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday and subsequently will not play for the University of Illinois.

Tilson signed with the Cardinals for $1.275 million after being selected by the Cardinals as the 79th overall pick in the MLB draft in June. Monday marked the final day draft picks could sign with their respective teams.

"It was a long process," Tilson said. "I felt the situation was right for me. It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. What made it so tough was I felt like I had a great opportunity at Illinois."

Illinois coach Dan Hartleb wishes Tilson was headed to Illinois, but understands his decision.

"It's one of those situations when a high school player makes a decision to give up an opportunity and take advantage of another opportunity," Hartleb said. "The money has to be such that they feel they can give up their education and give up their college experience.

"Like I told Charlie, it's bittersweet from a program standpoint. It's disappointing. At the same time, I'm happy for Charlie."

Tilson was unsure when he awoke Monday whether he'd be signing with the Cardinals or getting ready to attend Illinois. A deal was worked out throughout the day, and Tilson officially signed his contract at 5 p.m. CT.

"It was a great feeling," Tilson said. "It was awesome. It was incredible signing. I can't wait for the next step."

That next step will happen quickly for Tilson. He leaves for Jupiter, Fla., on Tuesday and will play for the Cardinals in the Gulf Coast League.

"They wanted me to get out there as soon as I can," Tilson said. "It's something I wanted to do as well. With me missing the summer, I've been itching to get out there."

As a senior at New Trier last season, Tilson hit .406 with 42 runs, 30 walks and 30 stolen bases.

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at spowers@espnchicago.com.