“It’s surreal, it hasn't really hit me yet,” Ball State Baseball pitcher Tyler Schweitzer said. “I'm still waiting for the phone call, ‘hey, you're getting drafted this next pick, just be ready for it,’ and I don't think it's gonna hit me until I'm on that plane going to either Florida or Arizona to get my physical and whatnot. It's a dream come true, I've been wanting this since I was probably 10 [years old], so making it finally happen, it feels like the sacrifices that I've made along the way are finally paying off and I'm reaping what I'm sowing.”
The 2022 Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft is scheduled for Sunday, July 17- Tuesday, July 19. Schweitzer, Ball State Baseball head coach Rich Maloney, Ball State Baseball pitching coach Larry Scully and anyone who followed Ball State Baseball during the 2022 season, knows the left-handed pitcher is almost certainly going to be drafted.
“The scouts were saying, ‘Larry, there's left-handers out there in the Midwest, that are bigger, maybe stronger, maybe throwing harder, but none of them competed [as hard] or had the command of three pitches like Tyler does,’” Scully said. “As a result, he's going to be placed fairly well come draft day.”
Maloney said he’s heard Schweitzer is likely to be drafted between the fourth-seventh rounds, with a high probability of that selection coming in the fourth or fifth. During the offseason leading up to the 2022 season, his junior season, Schweitzer didn’t even know if he would be a starting pitcher for the Cardinals.
Ball State's three most accomplished starting pitchers were all drafted after the 2021 season, leaving a combined 256 ⅔ innings to fill for the 2022 season. Maloney and Scully trusted Schweitzer to be their ace.
In the 2020 and 2021 seasons, Schweitzer pitched a combined 43 ⅔ innings as a reliever for Ball State. In 2022, Schweitzer appeared in 17 games, pitching 91 ⅔ innings with an 11-2 win/loss record, posting a 2.65 ERA, striking out 112 batters and allowing a .205 batting average to opposing hitters, earning Mid-American Conference (MAC) Pitcher of the Year (among numerous other awards) and led the Cardinals to a MAC Regular Season Championship.
Schweitzer said the switch from relief pitcher to starting pitcher changed everything from his routine to his approach.
“It was a huge transition because I would come in, adrenaline already pumping as maximum as possible, just to get out of that one inning and then it would kind of die down [over] the next few innings,” Schweitzer said. “As a starter, you kind of need all the adrenaline you can get throughout the game and so preparing myself for that was a big deal. Just the routine that I had to improvise from being a reliever to a starter, it was a completely different transition.”
Scully backed Schweitzer’s notion that his dominant season didn’t come easily. Scully said Schweitzer was still working on perfecting pitches, as well as improving his overall game as the season went along.
“He wasn't a finished product at the beginning of the year,” Scully said. “We were together, we were still working on a changeup, we were still working on a slider… he was always striving to get better at something, to take something good and make it better, to take something that was average and make it good, something that was not a strength to strength.”
Speaking of his changeup, Schweitzer said he believes adding a fourth pitch he trusted to his arsenal (fastball, curveball, slider and now changeup) helped shift things into second gear. In fact, Schweitzer may have found a new favorite pitch.
“I think that was the deal breaker,” Schweitzer said. “The changeup, I think, is still the best pitch in baseball, [because] without it, you're really a two-pitch guy because guys can see spin, but they can't really see the changeup well. By the end of the season, it was just another pitch in my repertoire that I could be very confident with throwing it in whatever count I wanted and not worry about, ‘this is not going to be a good pitch. I can't throw it.’”
Scully said during his and Schweitzer’s bullpen sessions, working on pitches, delivery or anything that needed practice, the left-hander would often ask questions and the two of them would talk through what they worked on, calling Schweitzer “a student of the game.” Scully said he believes Schweitzer was that same student of the game when it came to watching and learning from former Cardinal pitchers John Baker, Chayce McDermott and Luke Jaksich.
“[I think] he saw the work that those guys put in and realized if I'm going to be the best that I can be, it's more than just working in the bullpen and making adjustments with pitches and mechanics,” Scully said. “It's the lifting, the conditioning, nutrition, putting weight on, putting strength on, understanding the endurance that's going to be needed, the strength in his arm. It’s all these things and it all came together.”
One of the reasons Maloney had Schweitzer in the bullpen as a freshman and sophomore was the pitcher’s struggles with consistency. Maloney said over and over again during those first two seasons he saw “signs” of the MAC Pitcher of the Year in Schweitzer, but the left-hander could seemingly never put it together consistently.
In fact, Maloney said he saw signs of the pitcher Schweitzer became back in 2018 when Schweitzer pitched in the 4A Indiana High School Baseball State Championship for Hamilton Southeastern (HSE). Maloney said he remembered Schweitzer didn’t start on the mound for the Royals that game, but showed “gumption” and competitive fire when he came in relief and finished the game for HSE.
Schweitzer went on to lead the Royals to a 3-2 victory in relief, pitching three innings, allowing one hit, no runs, no walks and struck out five batters en route to becoming a State Champion. That’s when Maloney knew he had something.
Maloney said he has the Cardinals read a book titled, “Chop Wood Carry Water: How to Fall in Love with the Process of Becoming Great” by Joshua Medcalf and used that title to describe the work Schweitzer put in to improve his game.
“Tyler chopped a lot and carried a lot of water,” Maloney said. “He had to do all the little things really well and they built upon each other and then eventually he got this big prize at the end, but for a while there it was just building, building, building, building…As a coach, when you watch your guys develop, from young men into men, it's a big deal and to watch their progression as an athlete right before your eyes, that's one of the beauties of coaching.”
When talking about his time as a reliever, Schweitzer described his previous role as the “firefighter”, a pitcher who comes in the game to try and halt the opposing team’s momentum and lessen the damage. Ironically, Scully used the same analogy when talking about what he felt the left-hander excelled at most during the 2022 campaign.
“If there was a guy on third base and there were two outs, meaning if they get a base hit, that run scores, time and time again Schweitzer would just leave guys on base, he would just be so determined to leave those guys on base,” Scully said. “[His mindset was] ‘They're not going to score, there are two outs, I want to get this hitter out right here and I want to stop it,’ and he did that time and time again. If there was a fire out there, he put one fire out after another.”
Scully said as great of a pitcher as Schweitzer is as far as a skill-set goes, he credits the left-hander’s success to his ability to be able to do the little things well.
“It's not so much about what you can do, it's more about your makeup,” Scully said. “It's more about how you compete, how do you handle adversity? What kind of work ethic do you have? Are you a team guy? Those are all boxes that you can check off with him and I'm really proud of his character, it’s off the charts. Another thing I say is, ‘good things happen to good people,’ and he's a good person, not just a good ballplayer.”
Though it was a long road full of hard work for Schweitzer, Maloney said the pitcher “always knew he could be the man.” Looking back on not only the successful 2022 season, but Schweitzer’s time as a Cardinal in general, Maloney was almost speechless.
“Every time I talk to him, I say the same thing, ‘what you did, we couldn’t have won the Championship without you,’” Maloney said. “He just was a great teammate, handled himself well and competed his tail off and I'm just so proud of him. I don't even know what to say.”
Maloney and Schweitzer not only have a relationship on the field as player and coach, but each said it’s a relationship that transcends baseball. Maloney said he went up to Schweitzer every day at practice or before a game and told the pitcher that he believed in him.
Schweitzer said he knows he feels he can always go to Maloney in the future if he needs him, with baseball-related questions or not, because he knows his coach not only cares about the player he is, but more importantly for him, about the person he is.
“He always asks, ‘how's the family doing? How're your academics,’” Schweitzer said. “Baseball is just one part of our lives, but we can't play forever and so he's very concerned with how we're doing mentally or about our family and whatnot. Having that kind of reassurance from time to time is just a good feeling, because even though he could be very hard on us, baseball-wise, because we're not performing as best as we could, and he can scream at us all he wants, but deep down he cares about us.”
As a result, Schweitzer invited Maloney to join him, his family and friends at the Schweitzer household Monday, July 18, so his coach can be there with him when he most likely gets drafted. Maloney has coached 65 players who have gone on to be selected in the MLB Draft, yet the 2022 Mid-American Conference (MAC) Coach of the Year said every selection remains special, and Schweitzer’s will be too.
“It never gets old,” Maloney said.
Schweitzer said he tries to remain in the moment and focused on what’s in front of him, setting individual goals as the time comes rather than long-term goals. Outlining some of these individual goals, the accomplished pitcher said he has accomplished them all so far.
Become a Division I baseball player? Check.
Win MAC Pitcher of the Year? Check.
Be selected in the MLB Draft? Most likely check.
Make his way through the minor leagues and eventually be called up to the majors? That remains to be seen.