Fine Tun­ing Fin­isher

TICE RACKS UP SAVES IN BLUE JAYS OR­GA­NI­ZA­TION

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - SPORTS - By Mark Humphrey

PRAIRIE GROVE — An April 30 post on fu­ture­blue­jays.com de­scribes Prairie Grove 2014 grad­u­ate Ty Tice as an un­der­sized re­liever, at 5-9, 170 pounds.

Maybe, they should have said, “An un­der­rated achiever,” when siz­ing up the sec­ond-year mi­nor lea­guer.

Ma­jor League Base­ball’s Toronto Blue Jays saw po­ten­tial sign­ing Tice as a right-handed pitcher on June 19, 2017, af­ter se­lect­ing him in the 16th round of the 2017 MLB draft. Two days later he was as­signed to the Blue­field, W.Va., Blue Jays and played last sea­son as a rookie in the Ap­palachian League where he was se­lected as a post-sea­son All-Star.

On March 18, Tice was as­signed to the par­ent club in Toronto, where he made his Ma­jor League de­but in spring train­ing for the Blue Jays against the Yan­kees on Satur­day, March 24, at Tampa, Fla.

In­serted in the sev­enth in­ning, Tice faced 4 bat­ters when the Toronto Blue Jays played the New York Yan­kees at Ge­orge M. Stein­bren­ner Field with 9,924 fans in at­ten­dance, in­clud­ing his par­ents, Ja­son and Tracy Tice, of Prairie Grove; younger brother Cole Tice; and girlfriend Kate­lyn Har­ry­man, of Rogers.

The game took nearly three hours (2:54) to com­plete be­fore the Yan­kees won 13-6. Tice pitched two-thirds of an in­ning, al­low­ing no runs with 1 strike-out, 1 fly-out, and 1 base-on-balls in a 9-pitch de­but.

“I was ex­cited there were a lot of fans,” Tice said in a Mon­day tele­phone in­ter­view.

He had just watched a home run hit when he was sent out onto the mound with one out. Af­ter is­su­ing a walk and hit­ting a bat­ter, Tice set­tled in and got the next two bat­ters out. He in­duced a fly-ball that was caught for the sec­ond out, then stead­ied him­self.

Asked if the crowd cheered the out, Tice ad­mit­ted he zones in while pitch­ing.

“I don’t re­mem­ber a thing, I was just ready to get back up there and get the next out,” Tice said. “I tend to do that. I just fo­cus in on my pitch­ing. I’ve just al­ways been that way.”

Af­ter two weeks, Tice was as­signed to the Lans­ing, Mich., Lugnuts on April 2. His ar­rival, com­bined with re­liev­ers: Or­lando Pas­cual, Brody Rod­ning, and Matt Shan­non, ex­cited fans aware of a 2017 Lans­ing weak­ness in the bullpen.

He struck out the next bat­ter. Af­ter two weeks, Tice was as­signed. The April 30 post on fu­ture­blue­jays.com stated, “Tice has a live arm, and has been lights out as a closer since be­ing drafted in the 16th round last year (17 Saves in as many chances). Tice brings 95-96 heat, and an 89 (m.p.h.) slider that has late break and much bite to it. He slots in be­low some of the more prom­i­nent bullpen arms ahead of him in the sys­tem, but Tice could rise quickly.”

That prophecy was fu­filled 10 days later on May 10 when Tice was as­signed to the Dunedin, Fla., Blue Jays at the Class A Ad­vanced level com­pet­ing in the Florida State League.

In­ter­est­ingly, Tice shares a birth­day with Dunedin team­mate Kevin Smith, who plays short­stop and third base. Both will turn 22 on Amer­ica’s birth­day, July 4.

Smith, who now checks in at 6-1, 188 pounds, posted a Tweet on Oct. 25, 2017, ti­tled “Be­lieve in yourself.”

Smith writes: “In sev­enth grade I had a team­mate tell me ev­ery day to stop play­ing base­ball. I was too small, not fast enough, and he didn’t un­der­stand why I played. I kept play­ing. In eighth grade I was told I made the ‘big­gest mis­take’ when I went to try out for the best team in my area. I wouldn’t play short­stop, they were too good. I did my ju­nior year (thanks to the South Troy Dodgers my big­gest mis­take). I was told I made a mis­take com­mit­ting to Mary­land as the fourth short­stop, say­ing I wouldn’t play there and my ca­reer would end. I started all three years and (thanks to my coaches and team­mates at Mary­land) I’m en­ter­ing my first pro­fes­sional off-sea­son. I’ve been told I don’t do other things and I’m work­ing to­wards do­ing them now. When ev­ery­one is telling you no, you know, you have two op­tions: agree with them, or smile and go do it. To the kids go­ing through some­thing sim­i­lar, the thing ev­ery­one says you can’t do, is the ex­act thing you need.”

Tice’s cousin, Jalen Beeks, re­cently made his Ma­jor League Base­ball de­but on Thurs­day, June 7, pitch­ing 4 in­nings as a starter for the Bos­ton Red Sox and tak­ing a 7-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers.

Tice was in­volved in a game and didn’t watch Beeks’ game which was tele­vised by ESPN, but has since viewed footage and high­lights. Beeks sur­ren­dered 5 runs in the first in­ning be­fore set­tling into a rhythm. He al­lowed only one more run over the next three in­nings.

“He bat­tled, it was one of those games where he came out and did what Jalen does and com­peted,” Tice said. “It was a great op­por­tu­nity for Jalen. I think he showed those guys that he can com­pete up there.”

Like Beeks, who was re­turned to Bos­ton’s Triple A af­fil­i­ate, Paw­tucket, af­ter Thurs­day’s game; Tice has his sights on mak­ing the ma­jors.

Tice’s ap­proach to the game is sim­ple, “I just try to

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Prairie Grove 2014 grad­u­ate Ty Tice, shown April 10 wear­ing a warmup jacket while pitch­ing for the Lans­ing, Mich., Lugnuts — a Class A af­fil­i­ate of Ma­jor League Base­ball’s Toronto Blue Jays fran­chise — has since been as­signed to the Dunedin, Fla., Blue Jays.

Tice

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