Shortstop Kyle Davidson had a solid freshman season at Millikin University in Decatur last year, starting 24 games and hitting .253. But something was missing – his longtime keystone combination partner, Brian Dixon.
The two live on the same street in Elburn and have played baseball together since the sixth grade. After graduating from Kaneland, though, Dixon decided to stay close to home and attend Aurora University, while Davidson – after looking at Eastern Kentucky, Western Michigan, and multiple College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin schools – chose to move to Decatur and attend Millikin.
“I was looking to play baseball in college and I saw an opportunity to play at Millikin,” Davidson said. “I saw an opportunity to compete in the CCIW as a freshman.”
While Davidson enjoyed the chance to compete immediately at the collegiate level, Dixon languished on the bench at Aurora. When Davidson returned home for the summer, he began pitching the idea that the duo should reunite at Millikin.
“I just kind of talked to him about the team and that there was some opportunity for playing time,” Davidson said.
Dixon was willing to listen.
“Kyle told me there was an opportunity I could maybe play at Millikin,” Dixon said. “I wasn’t getting much time at Aurora.”
Dixon also was interested in graphic design and thought Millikin might be a good fit academically, too.
“Millikin has a strong fine arts program,” he said. “It’s challenging, and I like the challenge.”
Dixon has been up to the challenge on the diamond, as well. The second baseman has started 19 games for the Big Blue and is hitting .264.
“It’s been going well,” he said. “It’s a big step up from high school ball. I’m still trying to get used to college pitching, but I feel like my defense has improved and my hitting has come around. I’m starting to get into the swing of things here.”
Dixon says Davidson’s support on and off the field has made the transition easier.
“I was a little nervous coming in here,” Dixon said. “But having Kyle over there at shortstop has made me feel a lot more comfortable.”
Davidson said he’s a better player with Dixon at second base. The two were both part of Kaneland’s 2011 3A state title team.
“We know where each other’s going to be,” Davidson said. “We have this chemistry between us. We know where we’re going to be on the field.”
Davidson has started all 28 games for Millikin this year and while his batting average is down slightly from last year at .245, his fielding percentage is up as he’s made fewer errors than last season despite playing in more games.
Davidson also has been one of Millikin’s most reliable relief pitchers, posting a 3.38 ERA with a pair of saves. Unfortunately for Millikin, those saves represent a quarter of the team’s wins, as the Big Blue have struggled to an 8-20 overall record that includes a dismal 2-15 mark in the CCIW.
“We have a good group of guys. We’ve just had a few letdowns along the way,” Davidson said. “It’s been tough to get everything to click. … The team’s got a good future to it. We’re a young team.”
Dixon is just happy to be a part of the team’s present and future.
“I really like it a lot,” he said of his Millikin experience. “It’s a great campus, great people. … I really enjoy it here.”
Davidson and Dixon will continue their baseball partnership this summer by becoming a pair of Dirtbags – specifically, Joliet Dirtbags, a team in the Chicago Suburban Baseball League, a wooden bat league for amateur players.
• Dennis D. Jacobs writes the weekly On Campus column for the Kane County Chronicle. To suggest local college athletes to be featured in an upcoming column, email him at email@example.com.