It’s about an hour west of Basehor-Linwood to Topeka, but Brock Gilliam has made that trip loom larger than a trip to Las Vegas.

The former Basehor-Linwood High School baseball player is a pitcher for the Washburn University Ichabods. He began his career this school year and appeared to be redshirting before being brought in to pitch against Missouri Southern.

“The first kid up to bat was leading the league in home runs and batting average,” Gilliam said. “I got him out and then the next two to get through my first college appearance. The high of my freshmen season was the last series of the year when we played the University of Central Oklahoma. My pitching coach had told me to be ready to go in before the game started. Then when our starting pitcher walked a few guys and wasn’t having his best day, with two outs in the first inning, I got the call to go in. 

“I pitched five innings, letting in two runs. That was a feel-good moment for me because my favorite thing to do in baseball is to be a starting pitcher. I was a relief pitcher this past spring but that game I got to feel like a starter, which I hope to be (next year).”

His memories are filled with those special days in high school, including a complete game win over Mill Valley in his senior year for the Bobcats. An appearance in a T-Bones’ tournament championship game also made Gilliam enjoy the process.

“High school ball was a lot of fun and that was because of the coaches and having good friends playing beside me,” Gilliam said.

College is also quite the experience.

“College sports is everything I thought it was going to be,” Gilliam said. “Whether it’s practice six days a week, weights three days a week at 5:45 a.m. or keeping up with class during the season. I’m very thankful for the coaches I had growing up, getting me prepared for what college sports have to offer. A big shout out to coach (Ross) Schwisow at Basehor-Linwood for preparing me for the weights and conditioning portion of college sports. 

“I had an advantage over all the other (collegiate) freshmen. I was one of the top players in the weight room and in conditioning and I thank coach Schwisow so much for always pushing me during high school to get me to the point that I’m at now.”

It wasn’t always easy in Topeka, however.

“(I learned) how much harder class is than in high school,” Gilliam said. “I’m a nursing major so I have some pretty tough classes and I learned pretty quickly that studying the night before a test like I did in high school does not work so well. Something easier than I expected was in the weight room, which I thank coach Schwisow for again.”  

He is close enough for friends and family to come watch, but he has enough distance to kind of do his own thing.

“I’m very glad that I went to college close to home,” Gilliam said. “One reason is because my family is able to come to most of my games without having to travel very far. They’ll never know how much it means to me that they make so many sacrifices to be at almost all of my games. I’m very thankful for the support that my family gives to me.”  

He learned a lot about the process and what it takes to go from the prep to collegiate athletic ranks.

“I would just say as advice to younger players wanting to play college baseball that it’s a commitment,” Gilliam said. “It’s weights in the morning then class, then lunch before you go get ready for practice and then after practice you go to study hall. There isn’t time for much else. 

“Make sure you really love the game, don’t cheat yourself by taking a day off in the weight room or slacking on conditioning. Things like that catch up to you quick when you get to the college level and everyone is just as good as you or better.”