Tyler Bates And His Passion For Baseball

Photo by Todd Bennett

Growing up, Grand Junction Rockies outfielder Tyler Bates was a three-sport athlete. But when the time came, he turned to baseball, a sport that he fell in love with as a little kid.

“I started playing baseball when I was five years old. I played almost every single year except one. My dad asked if I could play a year up since I was better than the kids in my age group. The Little League said no so I sat out a year but other than that I’ve played every year and love it.”

In high school, he played football, basketball, and baseball during the school year and played travel ball with the Texas Horn Frogs and played 7-on-7.

“I’m one of those people who like to stay busy so I would focus on each sport during the season and once that season was over, I went to the next one,” Bates said. “Fitting all of the schedules together was tough but I loved it.”

When Bates was a senior, his high school made it all the way to the state championship game and attracted attention from several Division 1 schools but he decided football wasn’t where his heart was at.

“I didn’t have many offers for baseball because we were a smaller school and we weren’t very good. But for football, I had a few Division 1 schools contact me,” Bates said. “I had always played it and if I missed a football season, I just wouldn’t know what to do with myself because I like being busy. After the state game, I was like I’m done with football. I turned down Oklahoma State and Texas Tech because I just wanted to play baseball. I love football but I don’t love it as near as much as I love baseball.”

With this in mind, he decided to go to East Texas Baptist University. But while visiting the campus, he decided to talk to the coaches about maybe playing both sports.

“The summer before I got to school, I asked if they allowed athletes to play more than one sport. I didn’t know what to do from fall to spring so I thought I might as well play football,” Bates said. “My coach told me that not many people succeed doing both so he would recommend picking one sport but they allowed me to try and it was tough but I loved it.”

Bates found success playing at ETBU setting several records including being first in single game receptions with 17 at Howard Payne during the 2013 season and first in single game receiving touchdowns with four against Texas College during the 2015 season. He also earned ASC Player of the Week honors during both the 2014 and 2015 seasons and was a USA Football Network Second Team All-American. However, baseball was still on his mind and he gained attention from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim leading to him being drafted in the 38th round of the 2016 draft.

“It was crazy. The 24 hours before the draft, I had talked to one of my scouts and he had suggested to not think about the draft and to keep my mind off of it so we had a few people over, cooked out, and swam. We were relaxing and not listening or watching the draft,” Bates said. “I tried not to think about it but it was nerve-wracking as the day went of and I was kind of skeptical that it would happen. But Rudy Vasquez, my scout, had texted me three or four minutes after I had gotten out of the pool and told me to turn on the draft. I turned it on and heard my name. I was just shocked and couldn’t believe it was happening. It was one of the first times I saw my dad cry. It was a blur from then on.”

Bates was assigned to the AZL Angels for the 2016 season which helped him figure out the routines of professional baseball.

“It was nerve-wracking when I got there. The first few weeks was tough because I had just played 40 to 50 games in college and we played in the conference tournament and I was mentally and emotionally drained,” Bates said. “It kind of helped that I got a hit in my first game to get the nerves out of the way and after that it was good.”

Bates spent one year with the AZL Angels before being released by the organization. It was through a chance meeting that he got picked up by the Rockies.

“My coach Jared Hood knows a few people since he was a pretty good athlete. He was supposed to get drafted but then he blew out his knee. But I went to the conference tournament where ETBU was playing after I got released and there were two scouts there, a Rockies scout and a Mets scout,” Bates said. “The Rockies scout had asked what I was doing and my coach had told him that I had just gotten released. The scout asked if I still wanted to play and I said yes. We talked and the next day I was watching another game at the tournament and got a call. It was the Rockies.”

Bates said the second chance at his dream has made him push himself even harder and focus on helping mentor first-year players.

“I love it and I definitely don’t take it for granted. I didn’t take it for granted before but knowing that it’s my second chance, I worked harder and try to do better than I did before,” Bates said. “Seeing first-year players this year and knowing how I was, I talk to them to help them and not let them get too high or too low because this game is hard and it takes a toll.”

And for Bates, Grand Junction is the right spot for him.

“I am loving my time here and am grateful to the Rockies organization for my second chance.”

Photo by Todd Bennett