Having traveled a winding road throughout his life, Tyler Brown reached a destination point June 11 when he was selected by the Houston Astros in the third round of the MLB draft.
The 2017 Olentangy Orange graduate lost his mother at age 13, underwent Tommy John surgery on his right pitching elbow as a junior in high school and became a father to a daughter with Down syndrome as a freshman at Vanderbilt University.
After all of those battles — and nearly a year after helping the Commodores win the 2019 College World Series — Brown was taken with the 101st pick in the draft, fulfilling a long-held dream.
“It’s one of those moments that you always dream about,” said Brown, who was the final selection of the third round in a draft that was scaled back from 40 rounds to five to cut costs amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. “I’m very appreciative and just blessed for everything that has happened for me and my family. I’m just happy that the Astros believed in me when other teams passed over me.”
Brown was the closer for the Commodores. This spring as a junior, he was 1-2 with a 2.53 ERA, 14 strikeouts, four walks and one save in 10 2/3 innings before the remainder of the season was canceled because of the pandemic.
Last year, he was 3-1 with a 2.19 ERA, 69 strikeouts, nine walks and a program-record 17 saves in 49 1/3 innings. As a freshman, he was 1-5 with a 6.03 ERA, 41 strikeouts, 11 walks and three saves in 37 1/3 innings.
Brown went to Vanderbilt after being drafted by Cincinnati in the 26th round in 2017 but then declining to sign with the Reds.
“Tyler is a tremendous competitor on the field and getting away from his physical aspects, he can control his heartbeat on the mound and be under control,” Commodores pitching coach Scott Brown said. “He has two strong breaking balls and a fastball up to 97 mph, and he’s very athletic in his delivery. The Astros might try to make him a starter, which is his ceiling, but at the ground level he’s a great reliever. He has a bright future ahead.”
Brown’s life changed in 2012 when his mother, Cindy Brown, died at age 37 after battling bone cancer. He was adopted by Brandon and Koren Oswalt in 2015, and moved from Ashland Crestview to Orange in his sophomore year.
“Tyler told me last year that he was getting comfortable with the pressure and he realized that he would survive no matter what happened on the field,” Brandon Oswalt said. “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.”
Oswalt said the next step is uncertain for Brown because of the pandemic. MLB teams are not certain when their season will begin, if at all.
“Tyler had large numbers of teams interested in him (in the draft), and we couldn’t be happier that he was picked by Houston,” Oswalt said. “There are so many unknowns with baseball right now, let alone the world itself. We’re waiting to hear what happens next and then we can rock and roll.”
As a senior at Orange, Brown was first-team all-state, all-district and all-league after going 4-3 with a 1.08 ERA, 68 strikeouts and 14 walks in 52 innings and batting .371 with five home runs and 26 RBI.
The Pioneers went 23-9, losing to Strongsville 3-2 in a Division I state semifinal.
“I have had a chance to get with Tyler and work out during these strange times over the past couple of months,” said Phil Callaghan, who coached Orange from to 2011-18. “This is what he wanted for his family, and it’s nice to see everything come together.
“With all of the adversity that he has faced, baseball and the competition have been his way of surviving. You put that together with the incredible amount of talent that he has, and it’s a good combination.”
Mike Weaver, who was Brown’s pitching coach at Orange, said Brown works hard no matter what challenge he has to face.
“I have been so proud of Tyler in the way he has approached things,” said Weaver, who now is the head coach of the Olentangy Berlin baseball program. “It’s paying off for him.
“He always has had an unmatched work ethic, and I think that comes from his having to grow up so soon. He had some bumps along the road, but instead of making excuses and blaming people, he went back to work and that was shown by his success at Vanderbilt. He is a polished and mature pitcher and a polished and mature person. Now I’m excited to see where he goes from here.”
Brown and his girlfriend, Orange classmate Jocelyn Butcher, had a daughter, Isabella, in March 2018. Isabella was born with a heart ailment known as Tetralogy of Fallot, in which holes in the heart limit oxygen intake. She had multiple surgeries but pulled through and is an inspiration to her father.
“It’s amazing for me and my family, and this is an awesome opportunity,” Brown said. “I’m happy that the Astros had the belief in me. They have a great organization, and I can’t wait for them to help me develop as a pitcher with all of the knowledge that they have. I’m ready to give everything that I have got for them.”