“In baseball, you can overthink a lot of things,” Tyler Thompson said.
That’s why he has stopped taking the sport so seriously.
It’s part of the reason he is headed off to the University of Illinois this fall to play his final year of college baseball in the Big 10.
A 2017 graduate of Station Camp High School, Thompson has spent the last four years at Carson-Newman University, where he has more than excelled on the diamond.
His .373 career batting average, 112 RBIs, 23 home runs, 216 hits and 139 runs scored earned numerous accolades during his time in Johnson City, including All-SAC First Team (twice), American Baseball Coaches Association First-Team All-Region and National College Baseball Writers Association Third-Team All-American.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Thompson was granted another season of eligibility. As a pre-med major, Thompson found himself without a post-graduate biology program to study.
“I was very fortunate to have a few schools reach out to me with Illinois coming in late,” Thompson said. “I liked what they were selling, I liked the coaches I spoke with, and I feel like it is the right place for me to go.”
Now that Thompson will have the eyes of the Big 10, he understands it’s his time to shine and produce on the big stage.
“I feel like I’m one step closer to my dreams,” Thompson said. “I have always wanted a shot at pro baseball and to test myself against the best competition, so I am thrilled to get the opportunity. If I can go out and produce, I think I could put myself in a good position next summer.”
An enthusiastic ballplayer by trade, Thompson has found joy in enjoying the little things. Rhythm skipper Kenny Thomas said part of the 21-year-old’s success is he doesn’t take the game of baseball too seriously.
“If he strikes out, he isn’t happy about it, but he doesn’t take it to the field,” Thomas said. “He takes about 2-3 minutes to handle the bad and he moves on; I think that is why he is successful. You will fail in baseball and you must learn to deal with it — Tyler knows how to deal with it.”
Thomas added that Thompson’s maturity comes from his experience.
“He has learned what it takes over the years,” Thomas said. “He is so committed to this game, and it has paid off for him.
“He prepares himself every day to have success. He always stretches, runs, throws, lifts weights, and when people commit to the routine as he has, it gets you to where he is.”
Finding a groove with the Rhythm
Thompson was done with summer ball after leaving Wilmington, North Carolina. His time with the Sharks came to an end in the Coastal Plains League, and all Thompson wanted to do was get back to his roots.
“I decided to come home with no intention of playing the rest of the summer," Thompson said. “I wanted to come home and train with my dad and get back to the basics.”
Searching for a hitting facility to use the rest of the summer, Thompson walked into Framework Athletics in Hendersonville. There he ran into Rhythm General Manager Josh Carman.
“We had an away game that day, so I showed up early to the facility and there he was looking for a place to hit,” Carman said. “We wanted to sign him at the start of the summer, but he had a prior commitment, so when he told me his situation, I just offered him a spot (on the team).”
Thompson said it was a relatively easy decision to join Full Count.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” he said. “I still get to train with my dad, live at home and get the live at-bats that come with summer ball.”
Thanks to some old teammates, the Gallatin native admitted the transition from new guy to everyday player was seamless.
“The boys from Newman (Zach Boze, Gunner Ricketts and Harrison Travis) made it an easy transition from the start, and I think our comfortability shows out there. This is a good group of guys and we have a lot of fun in the dugout.”
In 12 games played, Thompson has 25 hits in 52 plate appearances for a .481 batting average. His 14 RBIs and 11 runs scored rank in the top eight on the team, while his on-base plus slugging percentage ranks first at 1.124.
Adversity leads to clarity
Thompson’s first love wasn’t baseball; it was football. He starred at quarterback for Station Camp during his high school career before being sidelined due to multiple head injuries. The outfielder made a promise to his mother he wouldn’t play football again.
His attention turned to the diamond, but the hard-hitting slugger missed critical recruiting time during his sophomore and junior seasons due to injuries sustained at football camp. He admitted not being able to play brings a great deal of transparency of what is important.
“You learn a lot about yourself when the game is taken from you,” he said. “Coming back from injury, you value being able to play and that puts everything into perspective.”
Added: Thomas: “We are privileged to play this game,” he said. “One day, it will be over, so you better enjoy every minute you are out here, and he does that.”