Tyler Brown has fulfilled a lifelong dream by having his name called in the MLB draft June 14, but now the 2017 Olentangy Orange High School graduate is at a crossroads.
Brown was taken in the 26th round with the 767th overall selection by the Cincinnati Reds, but the 6-foot-5, 225-pound right-handed pitcher has signed a letter of intent to play for Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
One path would take Brown directly into professional baseball and begin a possible journey to the major leagues. The other would take him to Vanderbilt, where he can hone his craft while getting a college education. If he chooses the latter route, he would be eligible to be drafted again after his junior season in 2020.
“I have no idea what I’m going to do,” said Brown, whose fastball has reached 97 mph on a radar gun. “(The decision will come from discussions) between me and
my advisors. It’s an exciting experience and I couldn’t be happier.”
Brown’s life changed in 2012 when his mother, Cindy Brown, died at age 37 after battling bone cancer. He promised her that he would play professional baseball someday, and feels a sense of relief after being drafted by the Reds.
“My promise made to my mom has been fulfilled,” said Brown, who was adopted by Brandon and Koren Oswalt in 2015. “I can’t say which way I’m going because I don’t know. God has a plan. I’ll try to follow that route and hopefully one day it will pay off.”
Brown was named first-team all-state, all-district and all-league this spring. He went 4-3 on the mound with a 1.08 ERA, 68 strikeouts and 14 walks in 52 innings and batted .371 with five home runs and 26 RBI.
The Pioneers went 23-9, including 10-5 in the OCC-Buckeye Division, and won district and regional titles before losing to Strongsville 3-2 in a Division I state semifinal June 2 at Huntington Park.
“Being drafted was sweet and sour for him,” Orange coach Phil Callaghan said. “It was a dream come true for Tyler, but there were talks that he would be drafted in the second or third round, so being drafted in the 26th was a bit of a surprise.
“The deadline (to decide between signing with the Reds and going to Vanderbilt) is July 15, so he’ll figure out what’s best. He wants a chance to prove that he’s capable.”
Brown was limited to being the designated hitter his junior season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, during which a tendon from a forearm, hamstring or foot is transplanted into the elbow of the throwing arm to repair a torn or ruptured ulnar collateral ligament. His procedure was performed by Tim Kremchek, an orthopedic surgeon who also serves as medical director for the Reds.
Despite being limited that season, Brown batted .413 with six home runs and 43 RBI and was named first-team all-district and all-OCC-Capital.
As a sophomore, Brown missed the first half of the season because of the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s transfer rules after moving into the school district from Ashland Crestview. He was honorable mention all-league after going 3-2 with a 3.15 ERA, 48 strikeouts and 14 walks in 33 1/3 innings.
“I think Tyler understands pitching more than any high-school player I have been around,” Orange pitching coach Mike Weaver said. “He understands hitters’ weaknesses and knows how to attack them. We would be sitting in the dugout and he would watch a batter and tell me how he would pitch him. You don’t see that much in high school.”
Brown said his elbow surgery may have had an effect on his draft selection. He wants to weigh his options and make the right decision for his family.
“I don’t think a lot of teams thought the Tommy John (surgery) would stick,” Brown said. “I don’t think they had confidence in me.
“(The Reds) want me as a pitcher. I have been compared to Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan because of my attitude on the mound. If the situation is right, I’ll go that way. But I’m playing for my family and the big promise I made to my mom. I just don’t want to let people down.”