This story has been in my in-basket for six weeks or so, waiting to be told about the player who would emerge from the Yankees fertile farm system to seize a spot on the 25-man roster heading North to face the Blue Jays on Opening Day. He’s the little engine that could among the Baby Bombers…he’s Tyler Wade.
The distance from Murrieta, California to Kalamazoo, Michigan is 2,149 miles. For Tyler Wade though, Kalamazoo was much closer as he was growing up. His boyhood idol, Derek Jeter, was born there, and as Wade saw it then in his dreams, Kalamazoo was on the way to Yankee Stadium.
Last season, Tyler Wade had a cup of coffee with the Yankees, appearing in 30 games. It did not go well as he managed only a .155 BA and a negative WAR (-0.5). This season, however, Wade, amidst stiff competition from Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres, has the distinction of making the New York Yankees with an Opening Day assignment in the lineup. A long shot for many of us perhaps, Yankees brass was not surprised at all by Wade’s emergence to capture the prize.
Tyler Wade, then only 18, was a fourth-round draft pick by the Yankees in 2013 from Murietta Valley High school, delivering a $371,000 signing bonus.
At the time, scouts marveled at his athleticism and maturity. Brandon Kuty, writing for NJ.com, cites, “Tyler came to our workout, no parents, and he handled himself like a real pro,” Yankees Vice President and Director of Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer said in a phone interview. “He seemed mature beyond his years.”
“He ran plus,” Oppenheimer added. “His arm worked like a shortstop’s arm is supposed to work, his throws had carry. The ball just stuck in his glove. He did things with grace and an ease to it.”
Primarily a shortstop following his boyhood hero Jeter, the Yankees have Wade pegged as a super-utility player. Last season at Triple-A Scranton, Wade played 44 games at short, 12 at second base, ten at third, two in center field, two in left field and one in right field. Along with Ronald Torreyes, the Yankees now have not one but two top-flight players coming off the bench at the will and need of manager Aaron Boone.
Lou DiPietro (Yes Network), in 2016 recalled how Wade briefly got to meet Jeter that first summer, his first pro season in the Gulf Coast League and The Captain was often in Tampa while rehabbing the ankle injury that cost him much of the year. People often say meeting their idols is a disappointment, but for Wade, that’s nowhere near the truth.
“He’s a great guy, and everything everyone says about him is completely true,” Wade glowed. “He told me to just be humble and work hard – don’t let anyone else outwork you.”
Fast forward to today, and the plaudits continue, this time from Aaron Boone:
Wade is slated to split time with newly acquired second baseman, Neil Walker. But again, with his versatility, it will not be a surprise to see Boone handing Wade a first baseman’s glove as an emergency if Tyler Austin falters as a fill-in for Greg Bird, who has trouble again with his right foot and is likely to begin the season on the DL.
Sparked by the triumvirate of Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Giancarlo Stanton, the Yankees have all the power they need. But it’s the role players who will drive the team over the course of a six-month 162 game season. Joining the like of Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner, Tyler Wade will complement the Yankees marquee players as the team seeks its 28th World Championship.
Not surprisingly, Tyler Wade gushes at the opportunity to play on the same field as his boyhood idol. “I’m excited. It’s a dream come true for me, But now the work just starts.” Mmm, sounds very familiar, doesn’t it?