By Laura Tome
Former Southern Virginia University baseball player Tyler Cox recently attended a 12-day training in St. Petersburg, Fla., under the supervision of Nick Belmonte. Belmonte, a former major league player for the Chicago Cubs, is now a recruiter for independent leagues and major league teams.
Cox was a catcher and infielder for the Knights for four seasons after returning from serving a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Pocatello, Idaho. He is currently an assistant coach for the Southern Virginia baseball program.
Throughout his four years, Cox earned a top-five ranking in nine of the baseball program’s individual career records. Among the nine categories, he ranks third in runs batted in and hits with 110 and 149, respectively. He is tied for fourth in most doubles with 31 and fifth in runs scored with 94. Cox averaged a .342 batting average and a .895 fielding percentage throughout his four years as a Knight.
There were 12 major league scouts who attended the 12 days in Florida, including the Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins, Pittsburgh Pirates and Boston Red Sox. Nine other scouts attended periodically throughout the camp.
“It was a really awesome setup where a lot of famous baseball players have played such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and some famous Yankee teams.”
The camp began each day at 9 a.m. and ran until approximately 4 p.m. everyday. The group would begin with stretching, then split into two groups, one working on offense and the other on defense. After lunch they would regroup and work the infield/outfield and then play a game.
“We had that schedule everyday for two weeks,” Cox said. “What was cool is that the first four days we were playing at the Tampa Bay Devil Rays’ old spring training facility, then we went to Al Lang Stadium, which is in downtown St. Petersburg right on the coast.
Cox was one of 50 at the camp and one of six catchers. Four of the six have signed contracts, one with the Colorado Rockies and the others with the Frontier League.
“I am hoping to get picked up,” he said. “I am confident I will be, it is just a waiting game. The whole experience was an honor. I was able to hear from people like Bucky Dent, who was the 1978 World Series MVP for the Yankees. Curtis Granderson showed up one day, which was also neat.”
“The coaching that they had was better than anywhere else you could find. You had Dave Cash, Andy Barkett, Nick Belmonte and Mark Fowley. They had 20-plus years in the big leagues telling their stories and giving their feedback. You just take it and soak it up. When I was sitting in the hotel room each night I just couldn’t wait to get back here and take what I learned and use it in my coaching.”