If baseball doesn't work out for Tyson Brummett, he might want to become a guidance counselor and he'll probably have the credentials to do it.
The decisions facing high school graduates are tough ones. For those few who are offered a chance to pursue a professional baseball career, however, the choices might even be a little more difficult. Brummett, from his choices and his experiences, could write a how-to manual for young baseball players especially for those who are in that questionable area of whether they're skilled enough to play in the big leagues.
Most players who are drafted by a Major League team right out of high school have three paths from which to choose. One, take the first money offered and head to the minors to find out immediately if you have what it takes. Two, head off to a junior college for a year or two and prove to the scouts that you're worth more money and then head to the minors. Three, head off to a Division I school and get a college degree while trying to enhance your baseball skills and improve your professional stock at the same time.
Sadly, many young prospects make the wrong decision. Not Brummett. The road he's taken to pursue his baseball dreams might lead him to a pot of gold.
"Plan B is working out pretty good for me," Brummett said.
Following a solid high school pitching career at Spanish Fork, Brummett was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the 35th round of the 2003 draft. It didn't take him long to say "No, thanks." Enrolling at Central Arizona junior college was first on his list.
"I was getting good advice from my parents and from the scouts," Brummett said. "The track record was right before me, that almost every player who reaches the majors has played college ball of some type somewhere. And I was determined from the very beginning to get my education paid for."
After one year of playing JC ball, a season in which he compiled a 3-1 record with an ERA of 2.10, the Giants called Brummett's number again in the 2004 draft but this time three rounds later. Certainly, that didn't convince Brummett to stash his education goal aside for that long-shot at pro. So he played another year at Central Arizona, where he threw well enough to catch the attention of UCLA coach John Savage.
Following a junior year at UCLA, in which he had a 4.52 ERA with 83 strikeouts in 97 innings, Brummett figured he'd get drafted again but he didn't. Temporarily, he figured his professional chances were done. But Brummett responded in the same way he had done so many times before with patient, positive and mature thinking. He quickly looked at all the good reasons to return to UCLA for his senior season like being the team's ace and team leader and finishing up his degree in history and political science.
"It actually turned out to be a really good thing," Brummett said, looking back on a senior year during which he compiled a 10-6 record and ERA of 4.04 with 111 strikeouts in 18 starts.
Those numbers really opened the scouts' eyes. Last week, the Philadelphia Phillies picked the lanky right-hander in the seventh round.
So why did Brummett's stock go up so much in four years?
Mainly, his velocity has improved from the mid-80s to the low 90s. But not only is he a harder thrower, but he's now a complete pitcher. He went from a two-pitch pitcher to one who has now mastered four pitches fastball, curve, slider and changeup. He's also proven to the scouts that he's matured in many other ways. Brummett said all of this has come from listening to his coaches, his parents and from his own hard work.
Brummett expects to sign a deal with the Phillies in the next week or two, certainly for more money than he would have received four years ago, and then head back East to join one of their minor league teams. Before he finally heads down that long-awaited baseball road, however, he first has a little business to finish at school. Right now he's in the middle of finals week at UCLA.
"Baseball is not always going to be there, and I've always been dead set on getting that degree," he said.
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