I saw the Memphis area code on my caller ID and knew who was calling - Tyler Whitney, one of the top lefthanded pitchers in the nation. Tyler, who officially visited Memphis this past weekend, promised that he would call to let me know whether he chose Mississippi State or Memphis, the two schools that remained on a list that had half of the SEC schools on it at the beginning of his recruiting process.
I picked up the phone and Tyler immediately said this is Tyler Whitney and then said the words that every Mississippi State baseball fan wanted to hear....
"I've committed to Mississippi State," said Tyler. "Either way was a good route for me to go, but I think Mississippi State had a little bit more of what I was looking for. It is a true college town. I love the atmosphere of it. The people of Starkville support the baseball program. And that's what I want to play in front of."
Considering the number of colleges that wanted him, those words say a lot about the MSU baseball program and Starkville, Mississippi.
"I received calls from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Memphis, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Florida, LSU, Baylor, Middle Tennessee, Arkansas State, Birmingham-Southern, Samford and Southeast Missouri State," said the home-schooled lefty, who stayed under the recruiting radar screen for most of his career due to limited national exposure.
The calls were just the tip of his recruiting iceberg.
"Vanderbilt recruited me heavily," said Tyler. "After I didn't show much interest in them, they dropped off. Ole Miss recruited me highly and offered me a scholarship. But after I got back from Mississippi State, I told them that I wasn't coming there. Baylor recruited me pretty heavily, but I never showed much interest in them, so they dropped off as well. The same thing with Florida and LSU. Of those, Baylor and Vanderbilt wanted to bring me in for a visit. LSU talked to me a little about a visit."
If you are wondering why he showed so little interest in most of those schools, Tyler is very close to his family and wanted to stay close enough to them so that they could come watch him play. Hence the reason for taking so few visits.
"I took official visits to State and Memphis and took several unofficial visits to Ole Miss," said Tyler.
His last official visit was this past weekend to the University of Memphis. Tyler made his decision a couple of hours after the visit.
"I left my hotel in Memphis Sunday morning and went to church and then met my family for lunch afterwards," said Tyler, "and over lunch I said Mississippi State is where I want to go."
Tyler explained in detail his reasons for choosing MSU.
"I just left with an incredible impression of the program after my official visit at the beginning of September," said Tyler, "and it stuck with me. I also went down there last spring for their Junior Day and had a blast. I toured everything and got to know the coaches a little bit and saw what a game at Dudy Noble Field was like. And I kind of walked away from that thinking that this is an incredible place to play. And sure enough I got the scholarship offer and felt like it was the best place to go."
While on the surface it appeared to be an easy decision, it actually wasn't due to the outstanding character of the two men that are head coaches at both programs.
"It was tough because I had built a great relationship with (Memphis head baseball coach Daron Schoenrock) and the other coaches," said Tyler. "And (Coach Rock) is a man of great character and a great guy. And that's something that I really admire in him. I would have really enjoyed playing for him, but I just felt like Mississippi State was the right place. And I'm really looking forward to playing for Coach Polk and his staff in front of a bunch of Mississippi State fans."
After notifying Coach Rock of his decision, the next step in the process was to call the MSU Bulldog staff. To say they were excited to hear the news would probably be an understatement.
"I called (MSU head) Coach (Ron) Polk first because I wanted him to know first since he was the head coach," said Tyler, "but he didn't answer. I then called (MSU pitching) Coach (Russ) McNickle and told him. He was thrilled and said he was real excited and looking forward to coaching me. I told him the same and that I was looking forward to playing for him. I called (MSU assistant) Coach (Tommy) Raffo and told him. He's kind of a quiet guy, but he was pretty happy, too. Coach Polk called me back and I told him. And he was excited, too. He told me that I had made the right choice."
Not only did Tyler call the coaches from both staffs, but he even called a future teammate of his, MSU commitment Jet Butler, a Pensacola (FL) High School infielder who visited State the same weekend that Tyler did.
"I called Jet (Sunday) night and told him," he said. "He picked up the phone and I said, 'hey, it's Tyler Whitney,' and he said, 'Tyler tell me that you have good news for me' and I told him that 'I do, man, we are going to be teammates.' He was thrilled."
Tyler also knew about the others members of MSU's current recruiting class, a class that is shaping up to be one of the best in the nation.
"I also knew that they have a commitment, from, what I hear, (Jarred Holloway) a hard-throwing lefty out of Arkansas," he said." I think they also have another infielder from New York (Ryan Powers). I hear he's great. And from I hear, Jet is phenomenal, too. And they also have an incredible freshman class that's in right now.
"It takes a lot of good people to make a winning team, so I want them to recruit the best players possible. And I hope they continue to sign more good guys."
With four of the best players in the country now committed to Mississippi State, Tyler is definitely getting his wish.
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.