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Baseball: Hard work transforms SWR grad Tyler Osik into pro prospect

07/01/2017 6:00 AM |

The path toward professional baseball has been a winding one for Tyler Osik.

As a third baseman for Shoreham-Wading River, where he graduated in 2014, Osik displayed a strong bat and feel for the game, no surprise given that his father, Keith, played in the majors for 10 years. Tyler Osik was a top player for the Wildcats, helping them to a county championship in 2012 as a sophomore. But a pro prospect? Even his high school coach, Sal Mignano, admitted it seemed unlikely back then.

Three years later, though, there was Osik’s name in the 40th round of the Major League Baseball draft earlier this month, the 1,198th overall selection by the Pittsburgh Pirates. There are already plenty of pictures of Osik in a Pirates uniform. Of course, those are from his childhood when his dad played catcher for the Pirates, primarily as the backup catcher to all-star Jason Kendall.

“It was a cool experience for me and my family,” Osik recalled this week of hearing his name called in the draft. “My whole family was happy. It was definitely a great day.”

After the euphoria of the moment died down in the days that followed, Osik faced a decision: to sign and turn pro or attend the University of Central Florida to continue playing college baseball.

He ultimately decided on college.

“My goal is to up my draft status and hopefully get picked in a higher round and have a better opportunity next year,” he said.

Osik’s journey after high school has been one of perseverance, hard work and commitment. He played at two schools, underwent a shoulder surgery and dedicated himself to hitting the weight room and changing his diet to put himself in the kind of shape that allowed him to take his game to the next level.

“He took his athleticism to the next level after high school,” Mignano said.

Osik’s commitment in the weight room and through an improved diet allowed him to drop 35 pounds from his freshman year.

“It took a lot,” he said. “When you’re around a bunch of elite players, you see the way they take care of their bodies and eat.”

At Chipola College, a strong junior college program in Florida, Osik committed himself to a nutritional plan with the assistance of one of his friends. Before that, though, Osik attended Coker College, a Division II program in South Carolina. He played one year there before deciding it wasn’t a good fit for him. A friend of his father put him in contact with Chipola College. He played his sophomore year there but underwent shoulder surgery last August. It led to him sitting out this past season as a redshirt while the team went on to win the 2017 NJCAA Division I Baseball World Series.

Catching the attention of a pro scout can sometimes be all about timing. For Osik, that opportunity came just a short time before the draft. A scout had called Osik’s father, expressing interest in a player on the Farmingdale State College baseball team where Keith coaches. Keith mentioned to the scout that his son had been getting some attention in Florida.

Osik went to the workout on May 30 in Connecticut where the scout observed him run a 60-yard dash, complete defensive workouts and hit. That led to additional pro workouts that left enough of an impression with the Pirates that they selected him in the draft.

Mignano said he ran into the scout at the Long Island Championship that Shoreham-Wading River was playing in. The same scout had been interested in Brian Morrell, the senior who was also drafted and who will attend the University of Notre Dame.

“We ended up having a conversation at the Long Island Championship that they had worked out Tyler the week before,” Mignano said.

Sure enough, it would be the Pirates to select Osik in the draft.

Osik will play catcher going forward, a position he often played growing up, but in high school the team benefited from him at third base. He spent the beginning of the summer playing for the Westhampton Aviators in the Hampton Collegiate Baseball League, but recently returned to Florida to begin training at Chipola in advance of summer classes at his next stop: Central Florida, a strong Division I program that will keep him firmly in view of professional scouts next season.

Baseball has been a huge part of Osik’s life since he was born and he doesn’t plan to change that any time soon. When his playing days are over, he hopes to become a coach at the college level.

Until then, he’ll continue playing ball as long as possible.

“My plan is to play as long as I can after college with a major league affiliate and however long that takes me, I’ll play and work my hardest,” he said.

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