[Written by Kim Leder]
Staying In His Game
It took them until the fourth round but in the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft the New York Yankees selected shortstop Tyler Wade from Murrieta Valley High School. Wade, a California native, was raised playing baseball year round.
As a child, Wade’s parents encouraged him to be active and get involved in sports. Wade’s father was a football star in high school and growing up Wade looked up to his father. At the age of five Wade’s father introduced his son to the game; it was just three short years later when Wade began playing travel ball.
“My father was a football star back in the day and my mom ran track,” Wade said. “They both encouraged me to play ball growing up, but in the end they wanted me to make the decision on whether or not I was going to stick with it. They’re the one’s who got me into it and it stuck.”
With every game Wade’s love for baseball continued to grow. It was at a young age when Wade began to idolize one specific team, one that was legendary too -- the New York Yankees. Wade was attracted to the New York Yankees not only for their success, but also because of their organization’s prestigious reputation. The New York Yankees have the appeal and fan base to catch the eye of any dedicated baseball enthusiast. For Wade it was the remarkable work ethic of players like Derek Jeter that would make the New York Yankees his favorite team.
“The Yankees were my favorite team growing up and they still are,” Wade said. “It’s a huge organization and Derek Jeter is my favorite player.”
Derek Jeter is the current shortstop for the New York Yankees. He’s played 18 seasons for the Yanks and is widely known for his leadership, hit ability, and base running, all of which are aspects that Wade tries to emulate.
“I idolize Derek Jeter because he’s an old school player and he’s always playing the game hard.”
Despite his preference for the Yankees, Wade’s game is similar to that of the current Toronto Blue Jays shortstop, Jose Reyes. Reyes is a four-time All Star, and is one who led the majors in triples not once but four different years.
“If I had to compare my game to any specific player at the major league level I’d have to compare myself to Jose Reyes,” said Wade. “He makes good plays and always gives 110 percent on the field. He definitely plays the game hard.”
Wade attended Murrieta Valley High School in Murrieta, California. Throughout his high school career Wade focused on academics, which came pretty easy. Wade, who is hardworking, was the type of student who managed to stay out of the social limelight and dramatics that comes along with every teenager. Uninterested in playing any other sports in school, Wade would anticipate the start of baseball season.
“When baseball season started it got a little harder just trying to balance it all,” Wade said. “Then you have that end of the year streak and you’re up and down, up and down. We had some trouble with the coaches, but they’re all good guys.”
Murrieta Valley’s head baseball coach, Scott Widner, has been coaching high school baseball for over thirty years. In his entire coaching career he’d never met a player with Wade’s character.
“I’ve been coaching high school baseball for about thirty years now and Tyler is one of the finest young men that I’ve ever met,” coad Widner said. “I’ve seen a lot of great young men and some good ball players, but what I tell scouts about Tyler that I couldn’t say for any other players I’ve met is that he’s be allowed to take out one of my daughters. He’s that kind of an individual. He’s more mature in his years and doesn’t get caught up in what a typical teenager would get caught up in.”
For many teens senior year can bring excitement, angst, and worry about what the near future will bring, but for Wade it brought strength. During the offseason Wade continued to work hard on and off the field. He hit everyday, and when the 2013 Murrieta Valley baseball season began Wade stormed the field.
“I’m a hardworking player. I go out, and I hit the ball everyday,” Wade stated. “On the field I try and be ahead of the game. You have to know what’s going to happen so I just try to be aware of things like that.”
The Murrieta Valley High School hosts a summer baseball camp every year for the incoming freshman. The camp allows the coaches a chance to scope out talented new students. Wade kicked off his high school career at this camp and when Scott Widner, the head baseball coach at Murrieta Valley, saw Wade he knew he was talented. Widner would later discover just what kind of talent Wade could bring to the field.
“When he first showed up at our summer camp, which we have every summer for the incoming freshman, we knew he was going to be a good ball player,” Widner said. “I’d say it was his work ethic that really put him up at the top. We didn’t know how good he was going to be, and we certainly had know idea he’d end up being a fourth round draft pick.”
Wade played in 26 games during the 2013 Murrieta Valley baseball season. He had 44 hits, maintained a phenomenal hitting average of .524, and 16 RBI. Wade even broke the league record for most hits.
“My senior year I broke the league record for the most hits in the league,” Wade said. “It felt pretty good.”
The young athlete, one who’s a left-handed hitter, graduated Murrieta Valley with a terrific last season. Coach Widner talked of Wade’s development as a player.
“On the field he’s an extreme competitor,” Widner said. “Tyler doesn’t like to lose. He tries to shoulder everything out there. If things go poorly he tries to step up his game and get out of his own element, but that’s just the type of player he is.”
Wade is dedicated to the game. In high school he hit every day and always maintained a good attitude. The assistant baseball coach, Chris Jones, revealed that for the first three years of his high school career Wade was forced to play third base and despite his natural ability for shortstop he did so with high spirits.
“He’s a wonderful young man and comes from a wonderful family. Tyler would do anything for us. Being as good as he was he played out of position for the first three years he was in the program,” Jones said. “He played third base knowing that he was our shortstop, but because of our personnel and what we had, we needed him to play third base.
"He played third base with no questions asked and an awesome attitude. When his senior year came we moved him to what we thought was his natural position, which is shortstop, and he exploded. He had a great year this year. He works hard off field and on field. He makes good choices.”
At 18 years old Wade still has plenty of room for growth. Wade accounts his latest success at the plate to a recent growth spurt.
“Recently, I’ve hit my growth spurt,” Wade said. “I gained 15 lbs in the last couple of months and a couple of inches too. It kind of changed everything.”
Coach Widner attributes Wade’s hit ability to his recent growth. Wade now weighs 180 pounds and stands at 6-foot-1.
“I think he grew a little bit, got stronger than he was his junior year,” Widner said. “This year it seems everything he hits has a hole, and he actually tied our record for hits for the season. I think there were actually only three ball games the entire season where he didn’t have a hit in.”
Assistant baseball coach Chris Jones has worked with Wade throughout his high school baseball career. Although baseball is tough, and one can never guarantee a hit, Jones revealed that it was hard not to have expectations with the way the 2013 season was going for Wade.
“This year was a little bit silly,” Jones admitted. “We had some expectations that every time Tyler came up to bat he was going to get a hit. One thing I like the most about his game is that he'll take what is given to him. If the third baseman is not playing him honestly than hell give out a bunt and he’ll take it and get a hit. He’s very good at that, and he did it a bunch this year. Tyler stays in his game. He’s got good leadership from the shortstop position. His communication this year was fantastic.”
Hit-ability is one of the tools Wade possesses. Wade hits for the gaps and has good pitch recognition.
“I wouldn’t classify him as a power hitter but more of a gap to gap guy,” Widner said. “He’ll be more of a guy that’s a table setter rather than one who’s swinging for the fences. He’s also done a great job with his pitch recognition.
"I saw maybe a handful of at-bats where he didn’t have any idea what the pitch was, but other than that I think he picked up the ball pretty well. He’s done a good job reading the spin on breaking balls and things like that. He’s putting good swings on them.”
To better his hit ability Wade sharpened his plate discipline and utilized his patience at the plate.
“His plate discipline is very good," Widener continued. "As the season went on, and the teams realized they were not going to throw him very good pitches. He was disciplined enough to lay off those pitches, not swing, and get some walks.”
Coach Jones thinks Wade’s patience is what captured scouts attention.
“I think its what got him a lot of looks,” Jones opined. “Tyler’s patient and I think he tied the hit record because teams didn’t want to pitch to him. It’s what led to people looking at him from an amateur baseball player to a potential major league ball player. He’s sees the ball well whether he’s facing a righty or a lefty.”
Though he may never be a power hitter Wade is likely to be the type of player that can steal bases and score runs. The lefty hitter is one who can utilize his speed and could be classified as a plus runner.
“He definitely utilizes his speed a little bit,” Widner said. “When he hits the ball on the ground instead of getting down on not hitting the ball the way he hoped he busts it down the line to turn it into a base hit for him. He only knows one speed on the field and that’s full tilt. He’s an above-average runner.”
Coach Jones revealed that his favorite aspects of Tyler’s game are both speed related.
“I’m kind of the old fashion coach,” Jones said. “I see guys playing back all the time and there’s really two aspects that I like about Tyler’s game and they’re both about his speed. I like the fact that he isn’t afraid to drop the bat down and beat it down for a base hit. The other aspect of his speed that I like is watching him take third base or go in for the triple when he hits it down the line or hits it in the gap. Those were the areas I really liked the most.”
Defensively one could say that the athlete was built to play shortstop. Speed is imperative and Wade has it, but he’s also got the range; he’s got a tremendous arm and good hands.
“I think he’s pretty solid. He’s got a tremendous arm and it’s probably one of the strongest that I’ve seen,” Widner said. “You think he’s going to be a bang-bang play at first base then all the sudden he’s nipping it by two or three steps. So I think he’s got a strong arm and tremendous range.
"There was one game this year where a guy hit the ball about 35 feet into the outfield grass and when it was hit he sprinted from the infield grass and caught the ball going away. Everybody thought the ball was going to fall, but fortunately for us nobody was able to tag up and go. That’s a good example of the type of range Tyler has. I mean, his glove is excellent right now. It can improve, but for a high school ball player his glove is excellent.”
Going forward Wade will need to gain muscle, mature, and build strength. He’s got the opportunity and has the tools; hopefully his hard working ethic will get him where he wants to be in the Yankees Farm system.
Brandon Brintz, a long time friend and teammate of Wade, believes it is Wade’s leadership and advanced tactics that have lead to his recent successes.
“He makes a lot of friends and he’s very easy to love. Tyler’s definitely a great kid,” Brintz said. “As far as a player he’s grown a lot more. I remember as a freshman and sophomore kids would come up to him asking him where he’s from, this and that, because at that age he was still far more advanced from where the other kids were.
"He was always stronger, faster, quicker, and every single time he’s played with us he’s stepped up. Maybe that’s why he’s as good as he is now because he’s always played at the higher level.”
Brintz was enthusiastic about his former teammates ability.
“I’d say he’s strong,” Brintz continued. “Tyler has a lot of range. At bat he’s going a lot of good tools. He can bunt. He can drag. He’s got the power. He doesn’t need a play, which is what’s special about Tyler. He’s got all the tools he needs. He’s got speed, an arm, he can run, he can hit, and everything you could want in a player. You could tell Tyler to go steal that base for you and he’ll steal the base for you.”
Wade signed with the Yankees on June 13, 2013. Now that’s he had entered the system and is playing professional ball Wade expects great things.
“I expect nothing but greatness from the Yankees,” Wade concluded. “They’re a great organization. I’m going to stick with it and hopefully it’ll be a good time.”