The Buckeyes’ outfielder from Grove City left campus with a bad taste in his mouth…and Tyler Cowles has vowed to spend his summer proving that his name should be foremost for one of the corner outfield positions next spring. He’s playing in Chillicothe this summer to make his case.
Springfield, OH – Of all the Buckeyes baseball players that had a hand in this spring’s 22-34 record, senior-to-be outfielder Tyler Cowles can make a case for leaving campus in May with the worst case of the baseball blues.
“That was the first team I’d ever played on that wasn’t a winning team,” said Cowles Sunday afternoon at Springfield’s Carleton Davidson Stadium, where he played right field as a member of the Chillicothe Paints of the Collegiate Prospect League.
“We had a lot of new guys and things just never worked out as well as we’d hoped. But I think we hit our low mark this spring so now it can only go up from here. Ya’ know?”
A graduate of Grove City High School, having apprenticed for two years at Sinclair Community College, Cowles came to Ohio State last fall to make a more than favorable impression in fall baseball workouts. Over the winter he only added to the anticipation of having his bat in the lineup and a candidate for the left field job, replacing the drafted-and-signed Ronnie Dawson from 2016.
It started out well enough, and indeed Cowles got a fair sample size to prove his everyday status in the Buckeyes’ batting order.
But as the season wore on – as losses mounted and Greg Beals and staff searched for different combinations and workable solutions to an anemic offense, Cowles was one that slipped out of the everyday mix. He had started in 32 of the team’s 56 games, but saw his batting average dip to below the fabled ‘Mendoza line’ by year’s end (.190), while contributing 3 home runs, 4 doubles, and just 15 RBIs. It wasn’t good. It wasn’t good enough. And no one took it more personally than Tyler Cowles.
“A lot of things happened to us, I guess,” he said Sunday following a 10-3 win over Springfield’s Champion City Kings. “I thought we got very unlucky with our weekend pitchers (Adam Niemeyer, Yianni Pavlopoulos, and Jake Post). One would go down one weekend and the next weekend another would go down. We just couldn’t get those guys healthy and that hurt us because we were struggling at the plate at the same time.”
By his mere presence one can tell that Tyler Cowles is intensely proud of his potential as a baseball player – of his ability to produce when expected.
And you can tell by the way he’s gone about his business in the first two weeks of Prospect League play that he’s intent on making his summer vacation time a renovating experience. Playing right field Sunday, he went 2 for 4 at the plate, scored a run, drove in one, and was on base in three of his four at bats. His goal this summer is to retool and rethink his approach to competing for playing time come fall baseball, and beyond.
“He’s really been good for the first two weeks,” says Paints’ assistant, and former OSU assistant coach, Greg Cypret. “Tyler’s shown some discipline at the plate by laying off the bad breaking balls, and he’s really had a quick bat against the fastball…and we’ve seen some pretty good pitching so far.”
“My goal is to show that I’m competing,” says Cowles. “I struggled so at the end of the season that I’ve got to show that I can grind out good at bats and earn that starting job in left field again. I want to win a job come next spring and that’s what we talked about during my exit meeting at the end of the year. I mean, I was mentally exhausted at the end of the year because I had never struggled that badly in baseball before.
“Towards the end of the year I started listening to a lot of Steve Springer stuff – he’s a mental coach with the Blue Jays organization – and I started to understand that baseball’s a grind, a lot of games in a short amount of time and you need to prepare for that mentally.”
Specifically, his approach to hitting with men on base is a priority, given the Buckeyes’ offensive issues of this past spring.
“For sure, the biggest thing is to focus on hitting the ball the opposite way with men in scoring position,” says Cowles. “I struggled with that, the whole team struggled with that, and we just couldn’t get that ground ball to the right side when we had men on second and third. If we can do a better job of that next year it’ll help us compete for another Big Ten title.”
He’s learning this summer to take the long baseball grind in short courses.
“I think it’s something that you have to convince yourself that it’s one at bat at a time, like everyday is opening day and a new beginning. The biggest thing is to not think about it (the last at bat) and move on to the next.”
A month removed from the struggles of ’17, Cowles says that the different venue of summer baseball is a welcome cleansing for the mind and spirit.
“Like I said, last year was the lowest point of my baseball career. The stats don’t lie. So now to have a fresh start, to compete every day, to take every at bat seriously…it’s a chance to help this team win and carry that into fall baseball when I get to campus.”
There’s also opportunity for collective and comparative progress this summer, as Cowles will regularly see three Buckeyes teammates who are members of the Champion City squad in Springfield – pitchers Connor Curlis, Jake Vance, and second baseman Noah West.
And as a point of fact, Cowles did look refreshed and with a new outlook on competing Sunday, displaying quick hands at the plate while swinging the wooden bat used in the summer collegiate leagues. He’s wasting no time. What others would call summer vacation…Cowles calls it his summer of opportunity.
He’s trying to win a job next spring!