Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tyler Sullivan, Burned Out on Baseball, Leaves UW


RT Staff Note: Next Level Baseball is extremely hard. We have written many times on this blog that collegiate baseball players work harder than any other athlete in any sport. Frankly, it's not even close. Baseball players practice for nearly the entire fall semester, have strength and conditioning every week from September through May. Then, they play up to 5 games a week and over 50 games a year. Add a 15 hour course load and no other collegiate sport can come close to matching that kind of schedule.

After the season, players are then assigned to collegiate summer leagues. Based on where a player is assigned, they can play up to 60 or more games during the summer season. (Northwoods Collegiate Summer League, one of the best in the country, has a brutal summer season of 65 games and a lot of long bus rides to get to those games.)

Players must have a deep passion for the game, or they too can burn out. That's why so many pro scouts are drafting more and more college baseball players. College players understand the dedication it takes to juggle, school, social activities and sports in a much more mature manner than a high school athlete.

But not all players can take it...and that's OK. Some athletes have to be real with themselves and tune in on the bigger picture. Tyler Sullivan decided that he needed a break. I applaud Tyler for at least taking some time out and reassessing his life. I wish Tyler good luck. I hope he finds his passion.


By: Terry Mosher...Sports Paper

College and professional sports teams go to great lengths to break down a potential recruit or draft pick. Pro teams test, probe and pick over them, looking for possible weaknesses masked by their obvious physical talent. College teams follow recruits for years and the slightest slip by the targeted recruit and a red flag goes up.

Yet, selecting an athlete — college or pro — is still an inexact science. Like picking a winner in a horse race, there are some things that aren’t measurable. You can’t tell how a horse feels when he steps on the track and despite all the tests man can devise you also can’t detect how an athlete feels about the sport he is good at. Videos of that athlete may not lie, but it’s also an unemotional peek that tells us nothing about the inner self.

Some athletes get to the next level, quickly figure out that this is no longer for them and make it easy for their college coach or pro team, and walk back out the door. Gone, just like that.

So it is with Tyler Sullivan, the gifted right-handed pitcher from Kingston High School whose mound mastery got him a baseball scholarship to the University of Washington. Sullivan is one of the big reasons the Buccaneers in their first two years of existence made the postseason, an unusual occurrence for such a young school.

Sullivan left Washington in early October.

“He said he didn’t want to play anymore,” said Kevin Ticen, director of baseball operations for Washington.

His departure is not as simple as Ticen makes it sound. Sullivan has a shoulder problem that forced him to shut down during the Huskies’ fall season. He still hasn’t thrown a baseball since throwing two successful innings in early September. A UW doctor told him it’s possible the problem — a nerve impingement — may heal itself, but if it doesn’t surgery might be required.

He also wasn’t doing well in school. And he was suffering from burnout.
“I was having so much trouble with school and not being able to really practice because of my shoulder had pushed it (baseball) out,’ Sullivan said. “I was playing baseball every other day for two years. I took a little time off during the summer. I hoped that would do it. (But) I just couldn’t get myself back into it. I just burned out of it.”

The recent coaching change at Washington was not a factor in Sullivan’s departure. Sullivan liked the new coaching staff, especially pitching coach Greg Moore, who he said helped him a lot.

New UW head coach Lindsay Meggs refused to comment on the situation, but Sullivan said Meggs understood.

“He took me aside and said, ‘I can see you are not having fun here.’” Sullivan said. “I told him I wasn’t and he told me, ‘I understand some kids burn out, or it’s not for them. I’m not mad or upset. Just figure out what you want and do what you got to do.’”

So Sullivan, a member of the Port Gamble S’Kallam Tribe, left school and returned home to Kingston where his plans for now are to continue to make money using the commercial fishing license he first got when he was 13.

“I’ll make some money first and then go back to school, hopefully, and play baseball again,” Sullivan said. “It probably won’t be at the U-Dub. I don’t know if they will take me back or not.”

Moore and Sullivan have talked since he walked away. The coaches want him to stay in touch. But now that he’s a free agent of sorts, he’s free game for other school programs. The coaching staff at Olympic College, who would love to have him pitch there, has contacted him.

They all will have to wait, however. Sullivan will take baby steps from this point forward. He will first have to pick up a baseball, throw long-toss and then throw some hard stuff to test his shoulder. If the pain comes back, he may need surgery. If the pain does not come back, the next step will be to find a school he is comfortable with.

One thing for sure, Sullivan does not want to feel like he did in his next go-around with baseball.

“I was having trouble with school and with baseball and everything,” he said. “It all came crushing down on me.”

All the tests man can invent can’t measure what resides in a person’s heart. For Sullivan, the only test that matters is what makes him happy. He honestly believes he can have fun once again in baseball, that the itch to pitch remains and that he will come back as good as ever.

He just needs time.

Terry Mosher is a former Sun sportswriter who is publisher and editor of the monthly Sports Paper. E-mail him at bigmosher@msn.com.

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