Mesa pitcher Day excited to get pro baseball career started
Tyler Day laughed that things have changed since his father, former Mesa State College pitcher Steve Day, was drafted by San Francisco.
“He had to sit by the house phone and wait for it to ring,” Tyler said Wednesday after his cellphone rang with the news that he was being drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 19th round, three rounds higher than his dad was selected.
Steve Day was drafted in 1993, and Tyler, the recently graduated Colorado Mesa closer, was born while his dad was playing in the minor leagues, so he’s pretty much spent his entire life at the ballpark. The summer before Tyler transferred to Colorado Mesa, he got a glimpse of what the minors is about when he played in the Northwoods League, a summer college league in Waterloo, Iowa.
“We played 62 games in 65 days, on the road every two days,” Tyler said. “It was busy and I think I’m ready to do that. Dad did tell me I need to be finding something for me to do to be productive off the field, it can’t just be baseball all the time, fishing or reading or something. I’m not sure about the whole reading a book thing, but fishing could be something.”
Day, who grew up in the Grand Valley, attending Palisade High School before his family moved to San Antonio, Texas, knows he’ll be at the ballpark plenty with weights and pregame workouts.
He’s been thinking about pro baseball for the past three years, since that summer in the Northwoods League, and it became more of a reality this season.
“I’ve always told myself I could but you don’t really know,” he said. “This past season, my first outing against Dixie I hit 95 a couple of times and that was the first time I was approached by multiple scouts. I talked to three teams, one was the Rays, and it all started from there.
“I thought, ‘OK, this is real. This is your year to do it, you’ve been working your whole life for this,’ but you have to focus on what you’re doing and staying consistent.”
He was definitely consistent this past season, going 6-3 in 23 appearances. He struck out 71 and walked only eight, finishing with a 2.64 ERA. He made six starts, but found his role as the Mavs’ closer, and fell in love with the bullpen. There, he struck out 36 batters and walked only two in 28 2/3 innings. He recorded four saves.
“I loved it,” he said. “It sounds bad, but as a starter, it’s hard to go nine innings and keep your team in the game. You go six, seven innings and it’s out of your control. As a starter, if the game gets blown, that sucks, but if the ball is getting put in my hand, I’m confident I can get three outs. That’s all I have to do.
“The mental side changed from starting to those late innings; it gives you more confidence. You know your role is to go win the game for your team, don’t give them a chance.”
The Rays want Day to continue to pitch out of the bullpen because of his velocity and high strikeout rate.
“When they first started talking to me I was a starter and after they saw me out of the pen, my working velocity was 89 to 92 as a starter but in the bullpen it was 92 to 94 and I was touching 95, 96,” Day said. “They liked that a lot. They want me in the bullpen, possibly one or two innings at a time, multiple days, the same role as at Mesa.”
Day has been talking to some former junior college teammates who are in pro ball about what to expect, as well as taking his father’s advice.
“My roommate from Blinn, he was our ace and when we came back from the (Alpine Bank Junior College World Series) he was drafted in the fourth round that year and we talk all the time,” Day said.
“Another buddy of mine is with the Brewers and we talk quite a bit. They’re all proud of me. One of them told me, ‘Remember how you feel today, because you’re gonna need it. There will be days you have to remember you do love it.’ ’‘
Day isn’t sure where he’ll report after signing his pro contract in the next couple of days, but said being far from home on the East Coast won’t be all that new.
“The past five years I haven’t gone to school where my family is,” he said, and he expects to leave San Antonio by the end of the week to start his career.
The Rays mentioned Florida or New York, which would mean Rookie ball in the Gulf Coast League in Port Charlotte, Florida, or short-season A with the Hudson Valley Renegades in the New York Penn League.
That second option could be interesting — Bligh Madris, who was drafted Tuesday in the ninth round by Pittsburgh, was told his first stop after signing would likely be with the West Virginia Black Bears in the New York Penn League.
“We’ve been texting, and we could be playing against each other,” Day said. “He asked me not to break one of his bats and I asked him to please not hit a home run off me.”