Written by Daniel Whitehead
BUENA VISTA, Va.—Tyler King (San Ramon, Calif.), a left-handed pitcher for Southern Virginia University baseball, had the opportunity to showcase his talents this summer for Valley Baseball League-member Rockbridge Rapids.
The Rapids, based in Lexington, Va., play their home games at Washington and Lee University's The New Cap'n Dick Smith Field. The league consists of 12 teams in three conferences with each playing a 44-game schedule from June to early August.
With the Rapids, he ranks third on the team in innings pitched (27.1) and fourth in the Valley Baseball League in appearances with 18 games. With one start to his name, the lefty earned 15 strikeouts and walked 10 batters during the season.
In his 2013 campaign at Southern Virginia, King appeared in 12 games with five starts, pitching 33 innings with 13 strikeouts and a 5.73 ERA. King, who will be a senior for the 2014 season, believes the experience will be to his benefit to finish out strong.
"It's helped me gain confidence that I can play with athletes of any caliber," said King. "I have a better feel of how I can attack the zone. If I can strike out NCAA Division I hitters, it gives me confidence that I can strike out D-III players. It's been great to see that the talent level between the three divisions isn't that significant in many cases. I've also been given different coaching perspectives on pitching, which will help me as well."
He also believes the talent level of the Valley Baseball League is as good as any he will see at the college level.
"I'd say it's right up there at the top of the country for collegiate summer baseball," King said. "If they're not D-I athletes, they're the best from D-II or D-III schools. It's been a pleasure to be able to play with them."
Playing with the Rapids has also given Tyler an opportunity to share the gospel with his teammates as they became aware that he is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"They all know I'm the Mormon guy, but they never gave me a hard time about it," King said. "In fact, my teammates respected me more for it and I had opportunities to explain why I don't drink or smoke or take in the night life. Several teammates commended me for my efforts to be clean, and I would acknowledge to them I feel blessed by making the decisions I feel are the right thing to do."
King hopes his play on the mound and off-field demeanor will lead to opportunities for future Knights to have a chance to wear a Rapids uniform.
"I feel that I've been a good ambassador for Southern Virginia and hopefully the club will continue to look at our baseball players and pick up some great talent. It would be awesome if they continue to look to us for good players they feel can contribute. I think I've built a good bridge between the Rapids and our school."
As King will be a senior next season at Southern Virginia, he hopes to play baseball as long as possible but is considering dental or medical school as a career path following a degree in liberal arts.
Regardless of what the future lays in store, Tyler is grateful for the opportunity he has had to don the green and white.
"Before my mission, I played at Cal State East Bay, which was a good experience but I couldn't always relate to the guys on the team because they had separate interests than I had," said King. "I enjoy my teammates here who share my same values."
The Rapids play their final game of the season Friday night at 7 p.m. in Lexington.