Generally speaking, most baseball players are more than okay with their teammates performing well and at a high level. However, rare is the attitude taken by uncommitted 2022 Tyler Sparrer. Not only does he hope those pitchers he receives have a quality outing, he makes it a personal mission for them look their best.
When he talks about “building trust with pitcher by expanding the strike zone” or “building a relationship with them,” it’s easy to see this ball player is somewhat of an old soul. He has learned very early that by leveraging others to be their best, the team benefits and in turn he benefits.
Tyler views this mindset as part of his job as a catcher; to make others look good. He is a true field general and of all the tools a catcher regularly has to employ he takes great pride in framing as his best. And he’s proof that it matters. As a freshman at Auburn High School, in Riner, Va., last spring he set the school record for put-outs and played an instrumental role in the Eagles winning the Virginia 1A state championship.
At 6’ and 185 pounds, the right-handed hitting Sparrer fits the quintessential description of a catcher, and his thinking man’s approach to the game matches his physical tools. This made him an easy fit when he decided to join the Dirtbags in the summer of 2019. While he was looking for opportunities to enhance his chances to play at the next level, he says he knew the competition in which the organization competes and the track record of helping players connect with college programs were both attractive.
Once he got on the diamond with the Bags, he says it was a seamless transition as the teammates and the guidance he found playing for Dirtbag coach Ben Cassillo’s 16u team made him feel like he fit immediately. Sparrer credited Cassillo with improving his game last summer by pulling him aside between innings regularly to offer valuable one-on-one attention when it came to topics like framing and blocking.
Tyler also mentioned how playing with top talent impacts him like he experiences with the Dirtbags. “It pushes me to want to be better than them.”
That’s not a negative, that’s just a competitor elevating himself in the face of a demanding environment. He takes ownership in having an attitude to always continue to learn. Sparrer stated simply, “I never want to be content with where I’m at.”
As his coach, Ben Cassillo recognized that as well, saying, “Tyler is extremely eager and curious to learn. After games many players are seeking to grab their phones and check their messages. Tyler, however, would seek out ways to get better and would want to ask about certain game situations so that he could learn from them for the time they came up.”
The learning seems to be happening all the time for Tyler, too. He regularly works with an instructor for catching and hitting. He even cited that the bullpens he is able to catch under this tutelage has been “incredibly valuable.” Sparrer commented he gets to receive “tons of bullpens of HS guys in the 80’s, college guys in the 90’s and even a AA pitcher for the Rays organization …Catching this level of speed and experience really prepares me for the next level.”
What an attitude to see the learning opportunities found in catching bullpens, instead of just something catchers have to do. But Tyler sees all the learning as a way to strengthen his mission to help his team whether at the plate do a job, or behind the plate building trust with his pitching staff.
The trust factor is huge for Tyler, evidenced in him saying, “I try to keep those guys as calm and focused as I can. There have been times where I had to go out and either tell a joke to calm one down or to get tough with them to get them focused. I always try to have good communication with them and they trust that when I’m on the way it is a needed visit.”
Capturing perhaps the truest essence of Sparrer as a catcher, Cassillo summed it all up by saying, “Tyler takes his job as a catcher seriously. He recognizes that his relationship with the pitchers on our team is vital to our success. He instills confidence in them to throw any pitch with his blocking ability. He finds ways to give them encouragement when they need it, and isn’t afraid to challenge them at the same time. No matter what kind of day he is having at the plate, Tyler makes sure to leave that in the dugout the minute he gets back behind the plate.”
As for his plate performances, he was better than adequate last spring in 6-spot for his high school. He admitted he was too anxious last summer which impacted his performance, and thus, he has been working on his swing this off-season.
Something else Sparrer has been trying to improve this off-season is his POP time. While regularly around 2.0 in a workout setting, he knows it’s a part of his game he can still get better.
So the question begs to be asked, where does this elite catcher want to continue playing once he completes high school. Sparrer says the recruiting process is still in its early stages for him, yet he was quick to rattle off a number of regional DI programs, both major and mid-major, in which he has an interest in. Whether through playing with the Bags or attending camps he’s been impressed with facilities and has taken the initiative to research their academic offerings in hopes to connect with the right fit.
And that’s the type of kid Tyler Sparrer is. When asked to describe a “Dirtbag” he ultimately pegged himself – “Strong. Hard working. Smart.”
But the attitude piece of Tyler is what truly separates him. He’s a leader in how he handles and presents himself.
His attitude about being a catcher shines through crystal clear when he talks about it. He loves it. Whoever gets to have him as a part of their college program will surely understand they are getting a guy that will make everyone around him better because of his leadership and his love for the game.