ROCKTON- Tyler Statler is back in Rockton, but not for long.
The former Hononegah star and current member of the St. Louis Cardinals organization is fresh off his first season as a professional, with big plans for the future in mind.
Statler spent his summer in Jupiter, Fla., playing for the Gulf Coast Cardinals after being selected by the Cardinals in the 14th round of the Major League Baseball draft in June.
Statler, who just turned 18 in July, went 0-2 with a 5.91 ERA for the Cardinals in 10 games (one start).
Statler said his time in cold weather isn't long.
While he's working out at his old haunts at Hononegah, he plans to head south for the winter.
"I'm going down to Texas to live with my sister," Statler said. "I can't take the cold weather anymore. The Cardinals have hooked me up with a couple of different people, trainers and coaches, that I can work with before spring training starts."
While Statler's numbers don't immediately jump off the page, his final statistics were skewed by one bad outing in which he allowed three walks and four runs in just one inning of work.
Upon being drafted, Statler headed to Florida, where he underwent a physical, signed his contract and began working out with his fellow draftees and international signees.
After a week or so, the Cardinals let him know of his final destination.
"They sent all the high school and junior college guys to the Gulf Coast league," Statler said. "Because of the amount of innings I threw in high school, they didn't want me throwing a lot down there at least at first."
While Statler was still working out with the team, he said it was difficult at times to wait for his debut.
"I understood why they were waiting,for me to get in there," Statler said. "But I was just ready to get out there and throw again. My first appearance was a little nerve-wracking. To go straight from high school to professional ball, that was tough. Once I got that first game under my belt, I was cruising from there."
Statler allowed just one run over the course of his next innings before his rough appearance. His time there gave him confidence in his ability.
"After the first couple of games there, I knew I was built for the next level," Statler said. "It really showed me that I could compete as a professional."
Statler said the Cardinals made
"They really didn't change anything with me," Statler said. "The pitching coach basically let us do our thing, and they would suggest different pitches to work on. I worked on my curveball, and ended up getting a splitter that was pretty decent. If I can master that, it could get me far."
Statler said he mostly worked with his fastball and curveball, with a changeup and the newly-found splitter mixed in.
"There was a lot of fooling around with pitches, especially the changeup," Statler said. "Sometimes that pitch would feel really good, and other times, I would throw it in the bullpen and I just couldn't get the feel for it so I wouldn't throw it in the games."
Statler also had to brush up on his Spanish skills, with the vast majority of his teammates coming from Latin American countries.
"There were five of us that spoke English first," Statler said. "The rest of the guys on the team were from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela or Puerto Rico. Google Translate was the most used app on my phone by the end of the summer. But we had a few guys who spoke English well enough to translate, and our coaches could, too.
"By the end of the season, we would invite a couple guys to come with us when we did something, and it was really cool to get to know them better, even if there were some language issues."
As Statler moves forward in his career, the fact that the Cardinals field a team in the Midwest League (Peoria) is not lost on him.
"I'd love to get there at some point next year," Statler said. "Hopefully when it's not too cold. Even if I start out in extended spring training and then go to rookie ball, I'd still have a chance to make it up there. That would be a great goal to have."