Updated Thu, Apr 11, 2013 6:38 pm
Standing at a whopping six-foot-seven, sophomore outfielder Tyler Wells is hard to miss; at least the Boston Red Sox thought so.
During the first game of his senior season at Lexington Catholic High School, in Lexington, Ky., scouts from the Red Sox originally came to scout two Lexington Catholic pitchers, but Wells’ performance caught their attention instead, and Boston would continue to scout him for the reminder of the season.
“At that point, I didn’t even have any colleges looking at me, so it was very shocking to have an MLB team that was already there watching somebody else show interest in me,” Wells said. “When I got the phone call (that night), it was like a dream come true.”
Since he began playing baseball at a young age, Wells has always received support from his family, especially in making important decisions about his playing career.
“Ultimately they left the decision (to pursue college or professional baseball) up to me,” Wells said. “They said whatever decision I made, they would back me up.”
As his senior year progressed, several other MLB teams reached out to Wells, including the Chicago Cubs, Florida Marlins and Washington Nationals.
The Red Sox showed the most persistence in courting Wells, inviting him to scout camp at Fenway Park and eventually selecting him in the 31st round of the 2011 MLB Draft. After failing to settle on terms for a contract, Wells decided to play college ball instead.
“After going up there (to Fenway) and seeing all of the other players, I wasn’t really as mature as them. They were more filled out and developed than I was,” Wells said, “I think college has worked out better.”
Ohio head coach Rob Smith sees potential in Wells, but he admitted that his tall, slim physique poses some challenges.
“He’s still trying to understand his body; especially in the outfield, we see him make some mistakes that are just coordination issues,” Smith said. “As he continues to get stronger, I think (his size) is going to be a huge bonus. You’ll be able to see him do more things in the field as he develops physically.”
For Wells, part of college baseball’s appeal was the chance to build muscle and get acclimated to more skilled opponents.
“Three years of muscle development and seeing faster pitching than I did in high school will help me get ready to get drafted again, if it happens,” Wells said.
Despite drawing interest from Ohio State, West Virginia and Marshall, the opportunity for early playing time also drew Wells to Athens.
Junior Kyle Dean applauded Wells not only for his personal desire to become a better player, but for the leadership role he plays on the team.
“He puts in a lot of effort in the weight room and he’s really focused on the little things,” Dean said. “He definitely has a lot of potential. Knowing that he was drafted out of high school, I think that would only drive him to play harder and get drafted higher.”
With Wells now playing the role of day-to-day starter this year, Smith saw some issues with Wells’ adjustment to more rigorous practice routine during the first few weeks of practice. However, Smith praised Wells’ commitment to bettering himself as they season has progressed.
“He’s done a really nice job with adapting to how we want to do things,” Smith said.
Smith also said that Wells’ experience of being drafted has been beneficial as he continues to work on his game.
“He’s had a little bit of flavor with that, so I think that should motivate him to want to continue to work hard and develop his skills,” Smith said.
Wells also draws inspiration to play well from constant presence of his family. He said that there is usually at least one relative coming out to see him play each weekend.
“It’s great to know that they want me to do the best I can,” Wells said. “They’re always there to back me up.”
With his friends and family cheering him on, Wells wants to focus on improving his performance at the plate.
“Hitting was kind of my downfall coming out of high school,” Wells said. “They really liked my fielding and speed, but hitting was never really there; they saw the potential and it was something I could work on.”
The Red Sox placed Wells on a summer team after graduation to improve his hitting and it worked; Wells finished his freshman season with a .315 batting average, five home runs and 24 RBIs.
His productivity at the plate has dropped off during his sophomore campaign, though. So far this season, Wells has recorded only one home run and has struck out 21 times on the year.
The good news is that there is plenty of baseball to be played and this larger than life Bobcat has plenty of time to establish an even bigger presence on the diamond.
Ohio hosts Akron for a three-game series this weekend, beginning Friday at 6 p.m.