Busy August awaits Soderstrom

Photo: Tyler Soderstrom (Perfect Game)

Jeff Dahn
Published: Sunday, July 28, 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The first-round of the playoffs in two separate brackets got underway at the 17u Perfect Game World Series on Sunday morning. And with all 32 teams still having something to play for at the Salt River Fields-Talking Stick spring training complex, there was a good deal of excitement in the hot desert air.

It was telling, perhaps, that in the top-tier Gold Bracket, none of the 16 teams had completed pool-play unbeaten or untied, with the top four seeds – the Canes National 17, NorCal Baseball Prime, Rawlings Arkansas Prospects-Menard and CBA Marucci National – all entering the playoffs with 2-0-1 records.

Based on recent history, NorCal Baseball Prime, based in Tracy, Calif., had to be considered among the favorites when the day began. The NorCal Prime won this event last year, after all, and was coming off a co-championship at PG WWBA West National Championship that wrapped-up late last week over in Surprise.

And the roster didn’t lack for a little star-power. One of the spots was occupied by 2020 catcher Tyler Soderstrom, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound left-handed hitting primary catcher who can also play both corner-infield positions and the outfield.

Soderstrom, a UCLA commit who calls Turlock in California’s agricultural Central Valley home and will be a senior at Turlock High School in the fall, played in both the PG WWBA 17u National and the 17u PGWS.

“This has been a really good experience; good competition,” he told PG late Sunday morning from the Diamondbacks’ side of the complex. “I play with a lot of these guys in high school so it’s been kind of fun to be down here with my friends and just kind of have a good time. … A lot of us are really good buddies back home and we hang out all the time; we’re just good friends.”

Playing baseball with good friends has always been a prerequisite for getting the utmost enjoyment out of the game and Soderstrom is in position to become fast friends with the top national prospects in the class of 2020, if he hasn’t already.

The No. 50-ranked overall prospect from the class of 2020, Soderstrom learned earlier this month that he had been invited to be a part of the PG All-American Classic weekend in San Diego, Aug. 8-11.

“I was super excited; it’s a really huge honor,” Soderstrom said of the Classic invite. “It’s one of the top events in the country and you get to play against the best competition around. I just think it’s a huge honor to get selected to it.”

The Soderstroms, with parents Steve and Tami, are definitely a baseball family. PG ranked Tyler’s older brother, Tate Soderstrom, a top-500 prospect coming out of Turlock High in 2017 and he is now at the University of Arizona. And let’s not forget about the old man.

The Giants made right-hander Steve Soderstrom the sixth-pick overall in the first round of the 1993 MLB June Amateur Draft out of Fresno State and he went on to play parts of seven seasons (1994-2000) in the minor leagues. He also made three big-league starts for the Giants in 1995, winning two of them.

“He’s been a great influence, the way he’s always helping me,” Tyler said of his dad. “Since I was young, he’s always been with me and my brother … and we were always going down to hit, taking ground balls. I always played with my brother, too, and we even got to play one year of high school ball together.”

Steve Soderstrom is a man who has learned through his baseball experiences just how important it is to keep things in perspective, but that doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy what his youngest son has accomplished.

“I was excited for him, since he’s the one who put the work in,” Steve said during a phone conversation with PG on Sunday, speaking from his home in Turlock. “As a parent, you get to enjoy what your kids are excited about so we’re excited for him; I know he’s thrilled to be going down there.”

Tyler Soderstrom’s 2019 PG season started early when he earned all-tournament honors at the PG Underclass West MLK Championships played at the Camelback Ranch complex in Glendale in late January.

His summer officially got under way at the PG National Showcase held at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix, and he really stood-out at elite scouting event. He turned in a 1.90-second Pop time and ran a 6.86-second 60-yard dash during workouts, showing both his catching skills and his overall athleticism. His scouting report read, in part:

“(Soderstrom has an) Athletic build with good present strength and room for more. … (He) has strong and quick hands and creates bat speed, swings with intent, line-drive swing plane with some lift out front. … Has athletic actions behind the plate and moves well side-to-side … has quick exchange and release, solid arm strength. Well-rounded all-around catcher whose offensive potential stands out at the position.”

Like so many other PG All-Americans this year, Soderstrom took part in the USA Baseball Prospect Development Pipeline League (PDPL) in Bradenton, Fla., in June, and after his performance there he and 39 others were named to the 40-man roster for the USA 18u National Team Trials, which will be held in Los Angeles Aug. 13-17, right after his appearance at the Classic.

Taken as a whole, Soderstrom has a very busy next few weeks in front of him. He’ll get to go home for a while before leaving for Long Beach and the Area Code Games, and then he’ll be off to San Diego for the Classic. The Trials follow and if things go well there, he’ll make the 18u National Team 20-man roster.

“It’s always been one of my big goals to make the USA team,” he said. “I’m going to work hard and try to show them what I can do, so I’ll see how it goes; it’s going to be a good experience one way or another.”

Steve Soderstrom said he and his wife, Tami, have enjoyed watching both of their sons develop as ballplayers, but he said it’s easy to get wrapped-up in the rankings and the college recruiting process that can also make things stressful at times; it’s important to keep it in perspective.

Tate went through the process, too, and while he wasn’t a PG All-American he was a top prospect that is now playing in the Pac-12. Steve said that with Tate, everything was full-throttle all the time but with Tyler he feels like he’s backed-off a little bit on playing so much and focused more on development.

He’s emphasized the point to both of his sons just how much of a process they have gotten themselves involved with and if their end-goal is to play in the major leagues one day, they need to understand that everything is a process at that point.

“It doesn’t matter how good you are, you’re going to have your 0-fers and part of learning that process is you’ve got to fail,” Steve said. “If you never fail you’re not going to learn how to get through those times as you keep moving up. Being in pro ball, experience-wise, there’s a lot of failure and you have to be able to handle it, and I think a lot of kids these days have a hard time with that.”

The NorCal Baseball Prime lost its first-round playoff game at the 17u PG World Series to the always-tough San Diego Show, 8-1, Sunday morning and finished its time at the tournament with a consolation game Sunday afternoon.

The loss didn’t diminish in any way how much Tyler Soderstrom enjoyed his week here in the desert playing with all his good buddies from back home in Northern California. He even got to spend some tie with his Turlock HS teammates: Andrew Owen (No. 159, Southern California) and Clayton Longinotti both played with the NorCal Prime at the event.

Soderstrom is about to begin one of the busiest stretches of his baseball career with the Area Code Games, the PG All-American Classic and the USA Baseball 18u National Team Trials all coming at him in the next 2½ weeks.

“Again, it’s part of the process … and seeing the elite competition is something that I’ve always preached to him, too,” Steve said. “You’re going to fail but you want to be seeing the best as much as possible.”

Soderstrom likes where he’s at right now in terms of his development and he feels like all the hard work he’s put in – a lot of it with his dad and his brother – has paid dividends to this point. He also knows he can always get better and he’ll never be content with the status quo.

There’s one more thing Tyler Soderstrom knows, and it’s this: He’s going to arrive in San Diego on Sept. 8, get geared-up in a way he’s never been geared-up before, and enjoy everything the PG All-American Classic experience has to offer. That includes, among other things, the much-anticipated visit to Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego and the nationally televised game itself at Petco Park on Aug. 11.

“It’s probably something that I’ll never forget and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Soderstrom said. “It’s going to be fun to go down there and (visit) with the kids at the hospital, hang out with the guys and form new relationships.”

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