NORMAL — Intercity products Miles Simington and Billy Mote didn't start their post-high school baseball careers at Heartland Community College.
Yet Mote (a University High graduate) and Simington (Normal Community) found themselves as teammates with the hometown Hawks this season and couldn't be happier.
"Coming here gave me a chance to stay at home with family and get my mind back right," said Mote, who sat out as a redshirt last year at Baylor. "Being here was the best choice I've ever made."
Mote and Simington, who spent last year at Polk State College in Winter Haven, Fla., have parlayed their successes at Heartland into scholarships in the Big Ten and Big East conferences beginning next season.
The 5-foot-9, 220-pound Simington, who leads Heartland in most offensive categories, signed a national letter of intent Thursday with Purdue. Meanwhile, Mote said he plans to sign next week with Creighton.
"You've got to make the most of it. I came back here with high hopes, for sure," said Simington, a sophomore outfielder who boasts a .415 average and .755 slugging percentage to go with five home runs and 26 RBIs.
"I'm blessed to be part of this program. I'm playing every game like it's my last and playing as hard as I can."
Mote has missed the last six games because of a bruised right wrist he suffered during the team's spring trip to Florida. The redshirt freshman, who is playing third base, plans to be back in the lineup Saturday when the Hawks (17-9 overall, 7-5 in the MidWest Athletic Conference) face Lincoln Land in a doubleheader at Springfield.
First-year Heartland head coach Jimmy Frankos was an assistant under Brian Furlong the last two years. Frankos said it was "a combined effort" from Furlong and him that got the pair to Heartland.
Furlong took a job as an assistant coach at Xavier last summer.
"Guys who are looking to transfer are pretty important to any program, especially when you get two talents like those guys from our area," said Frankos. "We're a community college, and you try to get the best players from the community that you can."
When Simington's coach left at Polk State, he decided to come back to the Twin Cities. Heartland played in the fall at Purdue, which showed Simington mild interest when he was at NCHS, and offered him after Heartland's spring trip.
"It's always been a dream to play Big Ten baseball," said Simington, who also considered Ohio University and Eastern Illinois. "When they gave me the call and gave me the money, I said why not?"
Simington has settled into the middle of Heartland's order.
"He's a lefty bat that can hit for power and average and has probably been our toughest out at the plate any time he steps in there," said Frankos. "He's a strong kid. Sometimes you see it on a baseball player and it doesn't translate. For him it translates into being able to do what he needs on the baseball field."
Simington said he trained hard in the offseason with teammates and is glad to "see the fruits of my labor pay off" with a scholarship to Purdue.
But there is something Simington wants to accomplish at Heartland before he leaves.
"Heartland has never won a national championship, so we have to do that," he said. "It would be awesome."
Sitting out last season at Baylor "drove me crazy, like it would any guy," said Mote. Yet being around the Bears players and seeing how the Big 12 Conference operated was a learning experience even if Mote didn't get on the field.
Mote also trained hard in the weight room and has put on about 25 pounds since his senior year at U High, getting up to 210. When he decided Baylor wasn't quite "the right fit," Mote knew where to look next.
"Heartland is something I've been around my whole life because my dad (Greg) coached here a couple years ago and I was part of this atmosphere," he said.
Mote was a shortstop at U High and has settled in at third, where he expects to play at Creighton with three years of eligibility left. He selected the Bluejays over Virginia Tech and Alabama-Birmingham.
The wrist injury hampered Mote before he shut it down for a week. He is hitting .280 with four homers and 18 RBIs.
"Being at the Division I level (at Baylor) you see how the top level of college baseball is run. He's been able to bring that mature approach and leadership to our guys," said Frankos. "It's like having another coach on the field."
Mote also plans to make the Corn Crib his summer home as he will play for the Normal CornBelters in the Prospect League.