The thought began to cross Tyler Osik’s mind around the 20th round of the Major League Baseball Draft last week: He might need to start thinking about a real job.
Having recently completed his final year of collegiate baseball at the University of Central Florida, Osik’s dream of playing professional baseball hinged on hearing his name called in the draft. As his family and girlfriend stayed dialed into each pick of the draft, Osik went inside his Shoreham home last Wednesday to find something else to watch on television. He said to himself, whatever happens, happens.
Not long after, he looked down at his phone and noticed a comment on his Instagram. Someone had just congratulated him on being drafted.
“I walked outside and my dad was like ‘You just got drafted!’ ” Osik said. “He was still watching. Then I just gave him a hug.”
The Shoreham-Wading River High School graduate was selected in the 27th round by the Chicago White Sox, starting a process that he hopes one day lands him in the big leagues. His father, Keith, played 10 years in the big leagues himself, mostly as a catcher with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Now the younger Osik will get his chance to carve his own path in professional baseball.
Two days after the draft, Osik flew to Arizona to take a physical, sign a contract and report to rookie mini-camp. The work has already started.
“It’s definitely cool, because I worked my whole life just to get an opportunity,” Osik said in a telephone interview from Arizona.
Osik, 22, said he had no expectations of where he could land in the draft or which team might be most interested. But he had contact with about 16 teams in the months prior to the draft, just about half of the MLB teams, so he knew there was interest.
What the White Sox will get is a player committed to playing the game hard, he said. “I’ve hit my entire life and I’m going to continue to do so and continue to try to get better every day,” he said.
At UCF this past season, Osik led the team in batting average (.325) while driving in 40 runs in 52 games. He also hit 10 home runs. He led the team with a .542 slugging percentage. At Shoreham, where he graduated in 2014, Osik was one of the team’s top players and helped lead the 2012 team to a county championship.
When his final season at UCF ended in late May, it marked the end of a winding collegiate career he described as a “roller coaster.” He battled through injuries while making stops at Division II Coker College and Chipola College, a junior college program.
A player who wasn’t on the radar of big-time Division I schools when he finished high school, Osik dedicated himself to improving physically while at Chipola to take his game to the next level. He persevered through a shoulder surgery and realized he needed to change his diet and focus on hitting the weight room to maximize his potential.
By the end of his time at Chipola in 2017, Osik was drafted in the 40th round of the MLB Draft by the Pirates. He opted to continue at school rather than signing professionally.
Two years later, his draft position was 13 rounds higher.
“Going to UCF was huge for me,” Osik said. “Our coaching staff was really good at developing players and getting you to where you need to be. My assistant coach, Ryan Klosterman, was always working with me in the cage and a lot on my defense. He made me the player I am today.”
Throughout his baseball career, Osik has moved all over the field, playing different positions, showing similar versatility to his father, who once played all nine positions in one game while at LSU.
Osik played about 40 games at first base this past season and about 15 in the outfield.
“I think I’m going to wind up playing multiple positions and then however far my bat takes me will decide where I wind up going, whether it’s the big leagues or however far I get,” he said. “It’s all going to be depending on how I hit.”
The minor leagues may not glamorous, but Osik said the experience so far with the White Sox has been better than expected.
On Monday morning Osik and the fellow newcomers in the organization got to the field around 6:30 a.m. for breakfast. They went out to the field for fundamental work, stretched, took some pop-ups, batting practice and played an inter-squad game. He’ll soon begin playing with the Arizona League White Sox in rookie ball, the first step on the road to the big leagues.
Top photo credit: Tyler Osik finished his senior year at Central Florida this past spring. (Credit: UCF Athletics)