ROCKTON, Ill.-(WTVO/WQRF) — Having your named called in the MLB Draft is a dream lots of high school baseball players share, but only a select group can say they’ve reached that dream. Hononegah pitcher Tyler Statler is one of those players in that select group. He was drafted Wednesday in the 14th round by the St. Louis Cardinals.
“This morning it was very exciting!,” said Statler. “I got a call about 11:45 this morning and was told I was getting ready to get picked by the St. Louis Cardinals and then we were waiting and watching and heard my name be called on the draft board.”
“There were so many emotions. I didn’t know whether to be happy, sad, or like cry.”
The NIC-10 MVP had a 1.33 ERA and he led the NIC-10 with 89 strikeouts. He helped Hononegah win the NIC-10 Championship. Statler had previously committed to play college baseball for Southeast Missouri State, but his decision to play professionally rather than go to college he says was an easy one.
“I think it was just the fact that I’d be getting to play baseball all the time and just go out and do what I love to do,” said Statler.
The chance to live out his dream came with a catch though…a promise Tyler made to his father.
“Being right there on the edge of playing major league baseball going to college… it was too great for him to not go and play major league baseball and pursue that dream… I made him promise me he was going to go back to college after,” said Phil Statler.
As soon as his family memebers heard Statler would play for the Cardinals they rushed out to buy all the Cardinals gear that they could. That despite the fact they’re all life-long Cubs fans.
“I’m not going to lie, this hurts a little bit but it’s a great organization,” said Phil Statler. “I’m thankful to the Cardinals for giving him this opportunity to pursue his dreams. I think everybody’s got like their Cubs underwear and stuff on but we’ve got Cardinals on the outside.”
The most surprising part about Statler’s journey? A little over a year ago, doctors told him he might not be able to play baseball… let alone see again, after a freak accident in a game against Boylan left him with a serious face injury.
“Once the injury happened, I was looking up right away to see if there were any people who had ever played or pitched with one eye and there was, so I just kept my dreams up,” said Tyler.
It’s that kind of perseverance and hard work that’s allowed Statler to reach this level of play. While he says he will miss his family and friends, including his 10-year-old brother, he says he knows they’ll be able to visit him from time to time.
Statler is still working out the details of his contract with the Cardinals. He plans to leave Friday to join the organization.