Stovall excels during PHR competition
Starkville's Tyler Stovall shows some of his hardware from his successful run during the Pitch, Hit and Run competition. (Photo by Joel Coleman, SDN)
When Starkville hosted the local portion of Major League Baseball's Pitch, Hit and Run competition earlier this year, Tyler Stovall had no plans to participate.
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While the 12-year-old Stovall has played baseball since the age of 5, he had no intentions to become involved in the annual event sponsored by Aquafina that this season had more than 600,000 boys and girls between the ages of 7 and 14 taking part around the country.
A family member had other plans.
"Believe it or not, he really didn't even want to do it," said Nicchi Stovall, Tyler's mother. "His grandmother signed him up and I just brought Tyler down and told him to just do it for her. It has turned out well."
Things did, indeed, work out for Tyler Stovall. He won his division of the local competition that day, went on to excel on the sectional level of the event in Tupelo, then became one of 30 national finalists in his age group with his performance at Houston's Minute Maid Park, the home of MLB's Houston Astros, in late May.
"I didn't actually know I was going to go this far," said Tyler Stovall. "I was really nervous at the beginning."
Aided by a sense of maturity that is a bit uncommon for most boys his age, Tyler Stovall was able to conquer his nerves to get to his current position.
In a competition that consists of pitching to a strike zone target from 45-feet away, hitting off a tee for distance and accuracy, as well as running a timed sprint from second base to home plate, Tyler Stovall has pushed himself to the head of the pack and could soon be headed to the national finals in Phoenix, Ariz., in July as part of MLB's All-Star festivities at Chase Field, the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Tyler Stovall will learn his fate on Monday when national finalists are announced in the first half hour of the 5 p.m. "MLB Tonight" show on MLB Network.
"It's very exciting," said Tyler Stovall. "I'm hoping I'll get to go. I've had a lot of support that's helped me out to get here, so I'm hoping my name will be called."
Tyler Stovall credits several for pushing him to this point. Aside from his family, Tyler Stovall says Thomas Berkery at the Starkville Swing baseball training facility has played a key role in his development, as has many of the coaches he's had through the years.
Though many helped Tyler Stovall mold his talent along the way, Nicchi Stovall says her son displayed early on the types of skills that are currently garnering him some special recognition.
"I didn't know much about baseball when Tyler started, but all his coaches started telling me right off, when he was playing tee-ball, how good he was," said Nicchi Stovall. "They kept telling me 'He has something, he has something.' So he likes playing it and he's good at it and I just make sure he's able to play."
With all of his support and talent, Tyler Stovall may now get the chance to play on the same field as many of today's current big-league stars, including many from his favorite team, the New York Yankees.
Tyler Stovall says he simply doesn't know how he'll react if he is selected to go to Arizona for the MLB All-Star Game and the PHR finals.
"I think I'll probably faint from being so excited," said Tyler Stovall.
Nicchi Stovall says she'll be right there in Arizona, sharing her son's excitement, should Tyler's name be called Monday.
Yet, Nicchi Stovall admits, even if Tyler doesn't get selected, it has still been quite the journey these last few months.
"It's all been overwhelming," said Nicchi Stovall. "But I'm just so proud of Tyler. He's come a long way and done a good job, plus he's just a good kid and you can tell that he loves the sport.
"(If he gets selected) I'll be proud of him, but either way, I'm still proud of him."