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Tyler Gilbert’s fight to overcome the odds
Tyler Gilbert. (Courtesy: MiLB)

Tyler Gilbert’s fight to overcome the odds

RENO, Nev. (BVM) — After a long and winding six-year journey across various levels of Minor League Baseball, Tyler Gilbert, a 27-year-old left-handed pitcher from Santa Cruz, Calif., stands on the doorstep of achieving his dream of pitching for a Major League Baseball (MLB) team.

During his college days, Gilbert spent the first two years pitching for Santa Barbara City College before transferring to pitch at University of Southern California (USC) for two seasons. At USC, Gilbert served as a starter and relief pitcher. There, he went 5-2, accumulating 66 strikeouts in 67 innings pitched. MLB teams took notice of his performance and he ended up getting drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the sixth round of MLB’s 2015 draft. Over the next four years, Gilbert gradually ascended up the various levels of the Phillies minor league system, making it to Triple-A. Today, he remains at the Triple-A level, but now as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ organization. This past offseason, Arizona selected him in the Triple-A portion of the 2021 Rule 5 draft from the Los Angeles Dodgers, the franchise that employed him in 2020.

Gilbert talked about all his hard work in the Minor Leagues to get himself to this point in his professional baseball career.

“Minor League life is not the best but can prove beneficial if you can grind through it and see the light at the end of the tunnel, which for me is the big leagues [MLB],” Gilbert said. “I have been doing it for six years and found success.” 

However, he is ready to move to the next level.

Gilbert said that the biggest challenge he has dealt with in his professional baseball career is the minor league lifestyle: the grind of long seasons, long bus rides, early morning flights and low wages. 

“It’s hard to make a living when getting paid so little and it pushes many guys away,” Gilbert said. “I have played with guys better than me who want to make money in a different job. When you make it to the Major Leagues, you can make big money.”

Yet, only about one-in-five players end up making it all the way to the top level of American professional baseball.

Gilbert revealed that next year he will hit seven years in the minor leagues, thus he will be able to enter minor league free agency and make more money. However, he is not really worrying about that and is instead focused on doing everything he can to get promoted from Triple-A for the first time this year. He is even more determined in the wake of not playing at all in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was able to work with local kids in Santa Cruz, Calif., last year as I was home for the summer for the first time since 2014,” Gilbert said. “That showed me how badly I wanted to keep playing baseball and how much I missed it. Taking a year off didn’t feel right and made me recognize that I want to keep playing.” 

Gilbert continues to get motivation to keep pursuing his goals from his family, friends and girlfriend. He is currently serving as a starting pitcher for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Gilbert is starting games for the first time since 2016. He highlighted the differences between starting and relieving.

“As a starter, everything falls into place as you can plan a schedule around the fact that you are pitching every five days,” Gilbert said. “Starting is different on the mental and physical side as you know when you are pitching, whereas as a reliever you don’t know when you are pitching.”  

Gilbert noted his excellent recent performance, pointing out that he has been able to drop his Earned Run Average (ERA) from its high of 7.71 to its current 3.72 thanks to a recent string of good outings.

He expressed his happiness with his current situation as well as his hope that the Diamondbacks will give him an opportunity to pitch for them, especially since they aren’t doing too well this season. 

“I have confidence to make it to the big leagues as that is my number one goal and I will keep doing everything I can to get there,” Gilbert said. “Why I haven’t been called up is out of my control, but it will happen. Whatever the big league club needs, I don’t care. I am open to starting or relieving.”

Gilbert has not really thought about what he will be doing after baseball as he remains focused on proving people wrong and beating the odds. Even though he is approaching his late 20’s and not ranked on any top prospect lists, Gilbert shares the same ambitions that younger and highlytouted players in the minor leagues have, which is to make it to the Major Leagues. With the Diamondbacks currently languishing in last place, and Gilbert’s recent success on the mound, the odds seem tilted toward the possibility that he will get a shot at pitching for the MLB team sometime this season.

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