Prep baseball: Tyler commits to ECU

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 31, 2012

By Mike London
LANDIS — The gift that came under Eric Tyler’s tree isn’t one of the standard ones issued to Division I baseball players.
A South Rowan senior who has committed to East Carolina, Tyler isn’t tall, big or fast. He can’t throw 90 miles per hour and the next time he hits a ball over a fence it’ll be front-page news.
And yet East Carolina is sure Tyler can catch for a strong program. Tyler’s prep coach Thad Chrismon believes ECU is right. Tyler’s summer coach, Empsy Thompson, also endorses Tyler.
But back to Tyler’s gift.
“It’s not like Eric doesn’t have natural ability, but the gift that sets him apart is between his ears,” Chrismon said. “His baseball instincts are tremendous. His feel for the game is outstanding. His knowledge of the game is special. He knows not only what he’s supposed to do but what everyone else is supposed to do. That’s what makes him different. He is aware of situations before anyone else is.”
Thompson coaches A.L. Brown, one of South’s rivals, but while Tyler hurts Thompson every spring, he gives something back each summer with the South Charlotte Panthers, an elite showcase team.
Thompson and Chrismon used precisely the same phrase — “coach on the field” — to describe what Tyler means to his teams.
“He’s one of the sharpest kids I’ve ever seen,” Thompson said. “His baseball IQ is high. You tell him something once, and you know it’s going to be applied on the field.”
Tyler’s exposure with the Panthers is what got him an offer. Tyler can catch and throw and hit, but he’s not a guy who will overwhelm you the first time you see him. But East Carolina associate head coach Dan Roszel sees the Panthers frequently, and all coaches eventually become Tyler fans.
“East Carolina has been coming to 60 or 70 percent of our games,” Tyler said. “So they’ve seen me a lot.”
Thompson says Tyler has essentially caught a college pitching staff this summer.
“Most of our kids will be Division I pitchers,” he said. “Eric’s had a chance to work with talented guys pitching to quality hitters, and that’s great preparation. We make suggestions, but he’s had a chance to call pitches half the time. He’s been exposed to a lot, and I think ECU is very comfortable with what they’ve seen.”
While everyone raves about Tyler’s mental pluses, he’s also put up nice offensive stats in three varsity seasons at South.
Like everyone else, his power numbers dropped in 2012 with the change in bats, but he’s hit .332 for his career with 71 hits, 66 runs and 49 RBIs. A two-time all-county player, he’s also excellent defensively, with a strong, accurate throwing arm.
As far as D-I schools, Tyler was being recruited hardest by Appalachian State, but when ASU coach Chris Pollard accepted the Duke job after a stellar season in Boone, the Mountaineers dropped out.
“It really was a quick matter as far as ECU,” Tyler said. “It was just a few weeks ago they started talking to me. They watched me play in a big tournament (in the Atlanta area) and they called when I got back to set up a visit.”
Two of Tyler’s summer teammates — Philip Perry (J.M. Robinson) and Kirk Morgan (Mallard Creek) are ECU commits, and that helped make his decision easier.
“ECU offered when I visited, and I slept on it one night and then I accepted,” Tyler said. “It’s a great program.”
Tyler knows he’s got his work cut out in Greenville. The Pirates were 36-24-1 last spring and made the NCAA tournament.
“They’re good, but it’s a great situation for a great kid,” Chrismon said. “It’s not gonna come easy for Eric, but he has the work ethic to succeed. He wants his shot on the bigger stage. I admire him for that.”
Thompson, not surprisingly, echoes Chrismon.
“Colleges recruit the best players they can every year because their jobs depend on doing that,” he said. “It’s going to be very challenging for Eric at ECU, but I know Eric will accept that challenge.”