For Tyler Dyson, the foundation of his success has always begun with family. Family is what first fostered his love of the sport in Massachusetts and family is what he has leaned on to become one of the best high school players in Florida.
During his childhood in Massachusetts, family gatherings on his mother’s side were an excuse for massive Wiffle Ball games with as many as 20 cousins. Sometimes the games were big enough it warranted making the short walk to the nearby Little League field. When Dyson started playing organized baseball, it was as a 2-year-old playing T-ball with his older brother’s team. Ryan, who is three years older than Tyler, had his brother as a teammate for basically his entire baseball career because Tyler always played up an age division or two. Part of the reason Tyler chose to attend Florida is Ryan will be a senior there in the fall.
Dyson has also leaned on the advice of family, particularly Rick Asadoorian, a cousin who was a former first-round pick of the Red Sox. Asadoorian spent 12 years in professional baseball, although he never reached the majors. Since his career ended in 2011, Asadoorian has become a personal instructor for Dyson and a constant source of wisdom, always willing to share the lessons gathered from more than a decade of playing the sport professionally as both a hitter and pitcher. A handful of these helped Dyson become the all-area player of the year and a Florida-bound two-way star.
Lesson 1: The value of pitching
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Dyson first caught Florida’s eye the same way he drew the attention of smaller Division I programs. Dyson is a skilled infielder with a potent bat. As a senior at Braden River, primarily playing shortstop when he wasn’t pitching, Dyson batted .333 with two home runs, 17 RBIs, 14 runs and three steals in 78 at-bats. The Gators saw him during the summer with the Florida Burn, a travel team of players primarily from Manatee and Sarasota counties. They made him an offer as a third baseman. His ability as a pitcher wasn’t obvious yet.
Dyson only threw 9 1/3 innings across eight relief appearances as a junior for the Pirates. A self-described “thrower,” rather than a pitcher, Dyson consistently clocked a fastball in the mid-to-high 80s, topping out at 89 mph. He was an infielder with a strong arm to make throws across the diamond, and that alone was good enough for him to post a 1.50 ERA with 10 strikeouts and three saves.
“I’m an infielder,” he said. “I was a guy to come in there and throw hard, but I wasn’t really a pitcher.”
Dyson’s development as a right-handed pitcher was the product of a summer of work with Asadoorian. During his limited time as a pitcher, Dyson realized he had a chance to be special on the mound. Asadoorian realized it was potentially an even better path to the majors.
Asadoorian saw the importance of pitching firsthand when he was a struggling outfielder in the Reds organization. A former first-round pick by the Red Sox in 1997, Asadoorian stalled at Double A Chattanooga in 2006. He finished his minor league career as a .249 hitter.
The 12th inning of a game on July 5, 2006, however, gave him a second life. The Lookouts were tied with West Tenn and called on Asadoorian, a strong-armed outfielder, for a couple innings of relief work. In two innings, Asadoorian worked around a pair of hits to and struck out five. The 25-year-old wasn’t going anywhere as a hitter, but he was already hitting 92 mph as a pitcher. Asadoorian lasted four more years as a professional, pitching in both affiliated and independent leagues before retiring in 2011 and moving to Florida.
Asadoorian, who works for a company that helps high school athletes through the recruiting process, keeps in contact with scouts from colleges and professional baseball. Most of them, he says, are intrigued mainly by Dyson’s ability as a pitcher.
“Everybody kind of says the same thing: ‘We really like him as a third baseman, but you can’t ignore the fact that he’s throwing 94,’” Asadoorian said. “No matter who you are, unless you’re like the top pick in the country, and the best hitter in the country with a million home runs and the best offensive categories, that arm is always going to be so attractive for the scouts because pitching is always limited. They always want more. They can never have enough.”
Lesson 2: Know your body
The Gators didn’t think about Dyson as a pitcher until late summer before his senior year, when the Burn traveled to Cartersville, Ga., for the WWBA Elite Round Robin. Dyson was suddenly cracking 90 mph. Clemson, who hadn’t seen him until the tournament in Georgia, offered Dyson exclusively as a pitcher.
“I got my velocity up; I got my pitching mechanics right,” Dyson said. “Because I was a thrower, not necessarily a pitcher.”
Dyson’s size was always going to make him effective. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound infielder was a powerful hitter destined to play a corner infield spot in college. He had to learn how to pitch.
“That was kind of the biggest focus with us,” Asadoorian said. “Utilizing how big he is and just having his arm get freed up, so he’s not working so hard with just his arm.”
Asadoorian made frequent trips to Bradenton from Orlando to work with his cousin on the lower-body fundamentals Dyson lacked as a lifelong infielder. He was understandably raw, limiting most of his motion to his upper body as he would when making throws across the diamond as a shortstop or third baseman.
“They’re my cousins,” Asadoorian said. “I went through it a long time ago, and I have a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience that I obviously want to help the next generation of players, especially the Dysons because they’re my family, of course. Traveling down there —it’s an hour and 45 minutes — it’s not a big deal, so I wanted to make sure I got down there and made sure he’s working on the right things until the next time I got down there.”
Asadoorian and Dyson built from the ground up, creating a repeatable routine to take stress off his arm and put more of his body into his throws. In one year, his velocity improved 5 mph. He developed a changeup and built confidence in his curve.
For now, Dyson is focusing on flexibility and athleticism. The plan Asadoorian laid out for him stipulates that a young player can always add muscle later. It’s more important to focus on mechanics and injury prevention first.
“Becoming a little more athletic is the best thing for him right now,” Asadoorian said. “Core work, flexibility. He has a ton of strength, so building more strength before he adds a little more flexibility to his game, I think, would be a little bit of a mistake. One of the things I am trying to work with him is just footwork, agility, conditioning. Once he gets a little more agile and a little more athletic, I think the sky is the limit. You never know what he can do. He can already add strength later on. I think now, and this is what I’ve talked to him and his dad about, especially, is the athletic part of it. It’s not just about becoming a pitcher —obviously, that’s a huge part of it — but being an athlete being a pitcher, I’m a huge proponent of that because athletically you have control of your body a little bit more. I refer to it with them as body awareness.”
Dyson turned his offseason training into one of the best regular seasons for a pitcher in Manatee County history. He didn’t allow a run until the Class 7A-District 9 tournament, and he finished the year with a 0.38 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 55 2/3 innings.
Despite not starting a single game as a junior, Dyson took the mound for the season-opener against Palmetto.
“I wanted to be the guy that they looked to in the rotation. I wanted to be the ace on the staff.”
For four innings, the senior no-hit the Tigers and left without allowing an earned run. He said he wasn’t going to give up a run.
“After the first couple games I’m like, ‘Wow. I’m actually going to do this thing.’ ” Dyson said.——
Now he throws fastball, curveball and a changeup after adding the latter last summer. As a junior, he was throwing just a fastball and curve ball — and about 90 percent of his pitchers were fastballs.
Lesson 3: Practice patience
Asadoorian’s journey was nearly a storybook tale. The highly touted high school outfielder from Whitinsville, Mass. was taken in the first round of the 1999 draft by his hometown Red Sox. His family watched him work his way toward the majors from afar, waiting to see if he can one day make his way to Fenway Park.
Instead, Asadoorian stalled due to back injuries and sporadic production. He’s a footnote in a long line of first-round picks who failed to reach the majors. At the time, though, his opportunity was too good to pass up.
Seventeen years later, he sees things differently for his cousin and Dyson agrees. Dyson is committed to playing at Florida, where he’ll have a chance to compete for national championships while becoming a more complete pitcher. That commitment may have played a role in his going undrafted.
“I want to become a starter,” Dyson said. “I want to become an ace up there.”
Dyson has been a Florida fan for a long time. Florida, Clemson and Duke were his three favorites and two, Florida and Clemson, offered. In another shared family trait, Asadoorian was committed to the Gators before getting drafted in the first round by the Red Sox.
Florida is as good a place as any to become a top-flight starter. The No. 6 pick in this year’s draft was A.J. Puk, a Florida left-hander, and two other Gator pitchers went later during the first day. By choosing Florida, Dyson is choosing patience, and with his rapid development there is faith that patience will pay off.
“They’re very high on him. They like him,” Asadoorian said. “He’s obviously still in the learning process as far as being a big-league pitcher, but the potential is there.”
Junior, Lakewood Ranch
To his credit: Zimring was a strikeout machine for the Mustangs this season, fanning 86 batters in 68 innings on the way the Class 8A-Region 3 semifinals. The pitcher finished the year with a 10-2 record and 1.23 ERA. At the plate, the first baseman batted .345 with nine doubles and 17 RBIs.
Fast fact: Although Zimring’s dream is to one day reach the Majors, he also hopes to study business when he goes to college.
Up next: Zimring will be back at Ranch for his senior year before he moves on to play in college.
Senior, Out-of-Door Academy
To his credit: Phillips’ offensive output was unmatched this season. The Out-of-Door catcher batted .574 with 14 doubles, five triples, four home runs and 26 RBIs for the Thunder, who reached the region tournament for the sixth straight season.
Fast fact: Phillips plans to study business in college.
Up next: Phillips is committed to play college baseball at Brown.
Sophomore, Lakewood Ranch
To his credit: Buck was a consistent force in the middle of the Mustangs’ lineup, batting .378 and driving in 18 runs. The infielder also collected seven doubles, six triples and scored 19 runs to help Ranch play deeper into the season than any other Manatee County team.
Fast fact: Buck’s favorite subject in school is science and in college he eventually plans to study sports medicine.
Up next: Buck has two more seasons with Lakewood Ranch before he can pursue his Major League dreams.
Senior, Braden River
To his credit: The infielder was a central piece of the Pirates’ lineup, posting a triple slash line of .284/.319/.705, while also stealing nine bases.
Fast fact: Dillingham is the nephew of former Devil Rays pitcher Lance Carter
Up next: Dillingham will continue his career as a junior college player in Bradenton at State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota.
To his credit: Josey was one of the Tigers’ best at both the plate on the mound this season. He led PHS with a 1.73 ERA and struck out 30 batters in 48 2/3 innings. As a hitter, Josey batted .309 with a .370 on-base percentage, 15 RBIs and 17 runs.
Fast fact: Josey cites biology as his favorite subject and will be in the National Honor Society next year.
Up next: After two strong seasons to start his Tiger career, Josey will have two more in Palmetto.
Sophomore, Bradenton Christian
To his credit: Schewe led the Panthers with a .375 batting average, .512 slugging percentage and .910 on-base-plus-slugging percentage as a sophomore. He also belted one homer, drove in 25 runs, scored 11 times and stole four bases for BCS.
To his credit: Before putting together an impressive start to his career at BCS, Schewe missed his seventh-grade season when he broke his back.
Up next: After a breakout sophomore season, Schewe has two more seasons with the Panthers.
Senior, Lakewood Ranch
To his credit: Losada anchored the Mustangs both at the plate and in the field this season. The outfielder led the team with a .411 batting average and 14 steals from the lead-off spot. The senior hit seven doubles and seven triples, and scored 28 runs.
Fast fact: Losada was one of the most productive wide receivers in Manatee County during the fall and plans to play both football and baseball in college.
Up next: Losada will play football and baseball at Division II Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tenn.
Senior, Inspiration Academy
To his credit: Mackey put up another monster offensive season for independent Inspiration. The catcher batted .419 with 18 doubles, and led the area with 10 home runs and 45 RBIs.
Fast fact: Mackey was also a first-team All-Area defensive lineman for Manatee, racking up 19 tackles for a loss for the Hurricanes.
Up next: Mackey is off to Kansas City, where he’ll play for Metropolitan Community College. The junior college program, which is based at MCC’s Maple Woods campus, is where Albert Pujols played before being drafted by the Cardinals.
Senior, Saint Stephen’s
To his credit: Runde racked up 79 innings for the Falcons and was effective in nearly all of them. The pitcher went 7-4 with a 1.51 ERA and 64 strikeouts, while also making a contribution as a first baseman. Runde batted .254 with a .389 on-base percentage, nine RBIs, four runs and a stolen base.
Fast fact: Runde’s 79 innings pitched set a single-season program record at SSES.
Up next: Runde will study engineering at Florida, where he also hopes to walk on to the team.
To his credit: Crawford was Manatee’s most reliable pitcher, logging a 2.11 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings for a 5-5 record. At the plate, the senior batted .338 with a .391 on-base percentage, .425 slugging percentage and .816 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. The slugger drove in 16 runs and scored eight.
Fast fact: Crawford hopes to pursue a career in sports medicine.
Up next: Crawford will continue his career at an in-state junior college when he plays for Florida State College at Jacksonville next year.
BRADENTON CHRISTIAN: Rob Arakel, sophomore, 3B
BRADEN RIVER: John Bean, junior, P/OF; Eric Kimsey, senior, P
LAKEWOOD RANCH: Matt Ambrosino, senior, P/1B
MANATEE: Garrett Richelieu, senior, P/OF
OUT-OF-DOOR ACADEMY: Duncan Cappar, junior, P/1B/OF; Max Munroe, sophomore, P/INF; Austin Brinling, freshman, OF
PALMETTO: Hunter Finner, senior, P
SAINT STEPHEN’S: Sam O’Dell, senior, P/2B/OF; Jake Westberry, senior, C/OF
June 16: Boys tennis
June 17: Girls tennis
June 18: Softball
June 19: Baseball
June 21: Boys track
June 22: Girls track
June 23: boys weightlifting