|View single post by lobo316|
|Posted: Fri Apr 29th, 2016 06:18 am||
|The Toronto Blue Jays are hoping to strike gold with a very unique prospect.
Tyler Olander, a two-time NCAA basketball champion at UConn who stands at 6-foot-10, has traded in the hardwood for the pitcher's mound, and is working out as a left-handed pitcher at the Blue Jays' spring training complex in Florida.
The 23-year-old chose to make the switch after suffering a foot injury while playing basketball in Europe. He hasn't played baseball regularly since grade eight, save for a brief turn in the Greater Hartford Twilight League three years ago.
"When I want to do something, I'm extremely dedicated to it," Olander told Dom Amore of the Hartford Courant.
Olander reached out to former UConn baseball coach Andy Baylock, who helped him with the transition over the winter. Baylock then contacted Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker, who also lives in Connecticut, and he watched Olander throw in February.
"What I saw was a very determined young man," Walker said. "He threw about 65 pitches and he was very aggressive. On the foundation Andy had built - he's 6-foot-10, but he's not an awkward 6-10, he didn't pitch like he was 6-10, and I liked that."
The Blue Jays, of course, have traveled down this road before. In 1998, the team signed 6-foot-9 lefty Mark Hendrickson - who briefly played in the NBA - and turned him into a pitcher. He'd go on to pitch in the bigs for 10 seasons.
Olander isn't ready to follow in Hendrickson's footsteps just yet, of course, though he's shown flashes, apparently hitting mid-80s with his fastball at extended spring training. He's realistic about his timeline, though, and understands the road to pitching professionally is a long one - even if you have the natural advantage of being a 6-foot-10 left-hander.
"They want to go very slow, and take it step by step," Olander said. "I don't want to look too far ahead. I'm just very happy with the progress I've been making."