Paul DeJong's All-Star selection is, as he said upon learning the news last week, "the culmination of a lot of hard work." His goal is to make it the first of many, an approach you seek from every player.
Being chosen for Tuesday night's game in Cleveland clearly is a positive step for the St. Louis Cardinals' third-year shortstop.
This also is clear: It's a really good thing for his college home as well.
DeJong is Illinois State's first MLB All-Star since 1974, when pitcher Buzz Capra was selected during a 16-8 season in which he led the Major Leagues in earned run average (2.28) with the Atlanta Braves.
Capra was the star hurler on ISU's 1969 College Division national championship team. He is royalty in Redbird baseball history.
Yet — and he will remind you of this — he played a long time ago. Enough years have passed that most potential ISU recruits would not recognize his name.
That's why DeJong's selection means so much. Redbird recruiting targets know who he is and will be fully versed on where he played in college. Head coach Steve Holm and his staff will make sure of it.
Perhaps more than ever, Division I recruits seek a school that can help them get to the next level. DeJong already was Exhibit A for Redbird coaches on the recruiting trail. Now, he is A-plus.
That may not close every deal, but it could help open eyes and, in turn, some living room doors.
DeJong's first All-Star nod is extra tailwind for a program that took flight this spring in Holm's first season.
After a combined 55-107 record over the previous three years, ISU went 36-26, shared the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season title and came within one win of advancing to the NCAA Super Regional.
The success was unexpected from a team picked sixth in the Valley's preseason poll. It came with talent largely brought in by Holm's predecessor, Bo Durkac. Holm and his staff proved masterful at extracting the best from the players.
It led fifth-year senior second baseman Derek Parola to tell our Randy Reinhardt this following a 4-3 regional title-game loss at Louisville:
"This year was obviously something out of a storybook for us. I'm just so proud of the way this program is going. The work that was put in this year has set a foundation for upcoming years. I'm looking forward to where this program can go here soon."
Indeed there is promise and yes, it matters. Coaches in every sport sell their vision for the program to recruits. They ask the 17- and 18-year-olds to share it with them, to "buy in" to what might be.
There is an abstract element to that. The pitch has more steam when there is tangible evidence of progress. This season supplied that.
It also provided this: ISU had five players taken in the June MLB Draft, led by outfielder John Rave (fifth round to Kansas City) and pitcher Brent Headrick (ninth round to Minnesota).
Pitcher Matt Walker went in the 13th round to Detroit, outfielder Joe Aeilts in the 14th round to Colorado and pitcher Jeff Lindgren in the 24th round to Miami.
That tells recruits "Yes, you can get noticed here, pursue your dream here."
DeJong's trip to Cleveland says something too.
"Come here, and you could be an All-Star one day."
That matters, too.