GLENDALE, Ariz. – Ask Team Oklahoma teammates, top 2015 prospects and, perhaps most importantly, good friends Kyle Tyler and Blake Brewster why they decided to spend as many as four days in the desert this week, and you get almost identical answers.
“We’re just trying to have fun; that’s the main thing,” Tyler said under a blistering desert sun Friday afternoon at the Camelback Ranch spring training complex. “We’re just having fun but I’m also trying to get to a D-I college, that’s the big thing. You get to see the best competition from around the country so I think it’s great.”
“I’m just out here to play ball, man, and trying to have some fun” Brewster echoed, a smile stretching across his face. “We’re not affected by the heat; we’re just trying to have fun. You can play baseball in any kind of weather.”
Brewster, a left-handed hitting outfielder and both-handed pitcher from Moore, Okla., who is the 247th-ranked national prospect and No. 1-ranked in Oklahoma in the 2015 class, is playing in his third major 2013 Perfect Game tournament with Team Oklahoma this weekend. Tyler, a primary right-handed pitcher from Oklahoma City ranked No. 409 nationally and No. 3 in Oklahoma has been at those same three events.
They’re here this weekend for the 5th annual Perfect Game/EvoShield National Championship (Underclass), which began its four-day run Friday with games being played at Camelback Ranch and the nearby Goodyear Ballpark Complex.
The 64-team field is dominated by teams from California and Arizona but a squad like Team Oklahoma cannot be easily dismissed. This is, by any measure, a talented group of mostly high school juniors from in and around the Oklahoma City area who fully expect to be playing for a championship on Monday morning.
“We’re just coming out to try to get our guys seen and get them in front of some more (college) coaches,” team manager Wayne Tyler, father of Kyle Tyler, said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody seen so that they can get (college) opportunities. Last year when we came out here we liked the fact that due to the proximity of all the fields the scouts could all be in one location. We’ve been to East Cobb (Marietta, Ga.) a couple of times and the scouts are all spread out at all the locations.
“This is all about the kids right now; winning is great but we’re here to try to get them looked at.”
Both Brewster and Kyle Tyler were impressive in Team Oklahoma’s 9-0, five-inning romp past the extremely young Warrior Baseball Academy 2017 from Phoenix in the tournament opener Friday.
Brewster, a 6-foot, 165-pounder who has committed to the University of Oklahoma, was 3-for-3 with a home run, three RBI and a run scored. Tyler, a 6-foot, 180-pound righty who is uncommitted, started and pitched two innings of no-hit, no-walk, five-strikeout ball and teamed with fellow right-handers Jake Taylor (2017, Tecumseh, Okla.) and Josh Smith (2015, Edmond, Okla.) on a five-inning, seven-strikeout no-hitter. Jonathan Davis (2015, Edmond, Okla.), was 3-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored.
The core group of this Team Oklahoma underclass squad – six or seven prospects – has been playing together for about seven years, according to Wayne Tyler. They’ve been together as they traveled across the country, and while several pieces have been added along the way, there is an unmistakable kinship amongst the veterans like Brewster and Kyle Tyler.
“The fact that they’ve played together so long sets them apart,” Wayne Tyler said. “They’re a bunch of wiry, out-here-to-have-fun kids that will run through the wall for you if you ask them to. They’ve played together and there’s a lot of cohesiveness, and they’re all buddies as you can tell – you see them back there (before the game) and they’re all playing grab-ass and just having fun.”
Team Oklahoma finished 29-5-1 this summer after winning a big Oklahoma state event; finishing third at the 16u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational in early June in Marietta, Ga.; and finishing 4-2-1 at the PG WWBA 16u National Championship back in Marietta in July, among other events.
“You see how they keep getting better and better,” Wayne Tyler said, giving credit to head coach Rich Hills for his instruction. “These guys are used to winning, they enjoy winning, they know how to win, so we certainly hope to come here and win. Again, we’re here first and foremost for the boys to get looks, whether it’s at a professional level but primarily at the collegiate level, but ultimately we like to win, as well.
“The further you go at this tournament it narrows the field and there is more and more eyes on them, even more than are here today.”
Brewster and Kyle Tyler experienced elite-level baseball together practically coast-to-coast this summer. They were with Team Oklahoma at both PG tournaments in Marietta and also attended the Perfect Game Junior National Showcase in Minneapolis in mid-June and the Perfect Game Underclass All-American Games in San Diego in mid-August.
“That was a lot of fun,” Tyler said, referring to the San Diego showcase. “We got to see some of the best guys that (every college) wants to have come play for them, so it was a great experience.”
Brewster’s recollections of San Diego were a little more personal.
“I got to play against my buddy Kyle,” he said with an almost devilish tone. “I got one hit and I got on first base and the funny thing was I stole (a base) on him, or I tried to. I faked it one time and he was like, ‘I know when you’re going. You’re not going to fool anyone out here.’ But it was a really good time.”
PG spoke with Brewster at the Junior National Showcase just weeks after his family’s home in Moore, Okla., had been wiped out by an EF5 tornado that devastated the entire city. Brewster absorbed himself in that event in early June and had these poignant words to share during that showcase:
"Baseball is my sanctuary," he said. "I come here and play with my friends and meet new guys all the time; it's just a lot of fun. We're going to do a lot of traveling around this summer, just trying to get seen. We've got a bunch of the same guys on Team Oklahoma that have been playing together since we were about 7 years old. It seems like we've been together forever."
Now months removed from that tragedy, this is what he had to say on Friday afternoon about his PG Junior National Showcase experience:
“Just going out there and seeing the guys you see – just the best of the best and you know they’re going to be going the next level,” Brewster said. “Just seeing that and just knowing that you can compete with o them and you can go out there and you can show them what you’ve got and they can show you what they’ve got. When you succeed you feel confident because you know what you’ve got and you know what they’ve got.”
Team Oklahoma continues its quest to reach Monday’s final four at the PG/EvoShield Underclass when it concludes pool-play on Saturday. Regardless of the wins and losses, Wayne Tyler knows the trip will be worthwhile just because of the competition the players saw and the important eyes that saw them.
“They can judge their ability and see just how good they are,” Wayne he said. “My son Kyle wants to throw against the best and play against the best because he wants to know how he stacks up against the best. They all want to get better and better every tournament and that’s why we do this.”
For Kyle, it’s still all about having fun.
“Our team is just mostly the guys that like to have fun with the game the most,” he said. “We get serious when we have to but most of the time we’re just out here to have fun and enjoy the game.”