By all rights, this was to be the biggest summer of Tyler Statler’s life.
The Hononegah graduate was all set to begin his first full season as a professional baseball player in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.
Instead, Statler, like so many other athletes, was waylaid by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Statler reported to Cardinals camp in West Palm Beach, Fla., in great physical and mental shape back in early March.
Camp lasted all of a week before he was told to head back home and await word on when his next reporting date would be.
That date never came.
Minor League Baseball announced last week that the season was canceled. Statler was ticketed for Johnson City of the Appalachian League, a short-season team that was set to begin play after the draft in June.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s been very disappointing,” Statler said. “I’ve been training my butt off since the end of last season, and to not be able to get to play is really frustrating.”
Statler split his time between Texas and Kansas City, depending on what facilities he had access to.
“When I was in Kansas City, my dad brought down my equipment from Illinois so I could use it there,” Statler said. “At that point, everything in Texas was still closed. So I had some stuff there, and I would go to the local high school and play catch on flat ground, long toss and work on things that way. There was also a golf course there that I would run to stay in shape.”
Statler headed back to Texas when things began to open up, and has been working with his trainer there.
“We’ve been able to do a lot,” Statler said. “We are working out of a garage gym, and doing a lot of footwork, a lot of agility training that can help out a ton. I’m also helping him out, working with younger kids and teaching them some things that they can use.”
Statler said he’s kept in close contact with the Cardinals throughout the process.
“They give us a workout plan to follow,” Statler said. “I was in contact mostly with the staff that was scheduled to be at Johnson City, just getting the information from them. They call us, make sure we are symptom-free, make sure we are staying healthy and making good choices.”
Statler said he was throwing about five of every seven days, though he hasn’t done much work off a mound. The reason? He hasn’t found a catcher suited to handle his 98-mile per hour heat.
Statler said his next steps are unknown.
“They called us last week when the word came down the season was canceled,” Statler said. “They told us to hang tight and they would have more information on what was going to happen in the next two weeks. There’s a chance there might still be instructional ball in the fall, but really nobody knows anything right now. I’m just glad the Major Leagues are coming back so there’s going to be some sports to watch.”