Late last June, White Sox outfielder Charlie Tilson was diagnosed with a stress fracture of the navicular bone in his right ankle. The injury was another cruel blow to Tilson, whose major-league debut in August 2016 was cut short by a hamstring injury before he suffered a stress reaction in his right foot during spring training of 2017.
It was a low moment for Tilson when he got the news about the navicular fracture, but his spirits were buoyed by the support of the organization and a call from general manager Rick Hahn. Hahn told Tilson he would get back on the field and would get an opportunity to play when he did. Tilson said Hahn also mentioned that Bulls legend Michael Jordan suffered a navicular fracture and recovered.
‘‘[Hahn] said: ‘It’s not going to hinder your athleticism, and we still believe in you. We know you’re going to work, and that’s all we ask,’ ’’ Tilson said. ‘‘For someone to tell you something like that after missing just about a full year, that’s inspiring. You don’t want to disappoint the people that believe in you. That was really my thought process the whole time.’’
After missing the entire 2017 regular season, Tilson played in the Arizona Fall League and started this season at Class AAA Charlotte. He appeared in 39 games there before being called up to the Sox on May 24. Since then, Tilson is hitting .280 with a .341 on-base percentage and has been reaping the rewards of his hard work and perseverance.
‘‘It feels incredible,’’ Tilson said. ‘‘It was a long journey for me, obviously. This was always the vision. This is what had me staying the course. I knew that if I was able to get back to full health and get everything back together on the field that this was possible. To be out here and contributing, it’s been an awesome experience.’’
Tilson, a New Trier graduate who grew up in Wilmette, knows he has more to do as he tries to restore his feel for the game.
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‘‘I’ve kind of noticed similar trends throughout the season that I’ve gone through throughout my career,’’ Tilson said. ‘‘It’s kind of like you’re putting the pieces back together. Thankfully, I’ve been able to do it in kind of an expedited fashion. Every day I’m out here, I’m working. You start to feel little triggers that put you in a good spot. I’ve just been rolling with it and putting in the work, and the results are starting to show on the field.’’
Manager Rick Renteria said Tilson is adjusting while having some good and not-so-good days.
‘‘He’s certainly showing us that he can defend,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘He’s made a lot of nice plays out there. Good first-step jumps [in the field] and continues to take some pretty good at-bats. I think as he continues to learn the league and pitchers and things of that nature, he’ll continue to grow as a big-leaguer.’’
While he was out, that’s all Tilson wanted to do. He wanted to pay back the Sox for believing in him and help his teammates win. Now that he has that chance, Tilson isn’t taking it for granted. He never will.
‘‘Especially given what I’ve gone through just to get back here,’’ he said. ‘‘Regardless, having this opportunity, it’s what you dream of. I would never take it for granted. It’s just inspiring and makes you want to go out and work hard and do anything you can.’’
NOTE: Outfielder Trayce Thompson was sent to Charlotte.