UCO’s Tyler Crabtree can take a pitch

by Jenni Carlson Published: April 5, 2014
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EDMOND — Tyler Crabtree likes getting hits.

What baseball player doesn’t?

But he also doesn’t mind getting hit.

A lot.

Last season, he got hit by a pitch 41 times, tying an NCAA Division II single-season record. This season, the Central Oklahoma leadoff man isn’t on pace to break that record, but he’s still been plunked 16 times.

“Any day I can wear one for my team,” he said without even a hint of irony, “is a good day.”

If that’s the case, then Crabtree has lots of good days.

Let’s put this into some perspective. The guy who led Major League Baseball in hit by pitches last season was Shin-Soo Choo, then with the Reds, now with the Rangers. He got hit 26 times, but he played in 154 games.

That’s once every 5.9 games.

Last season, Crabtree got hit once every 1.2 games.

This season: 1.8 games.

By all accounts, Crabtree is a smart guy. Likes to read in his free time. Wants to be a pastor after he graduates in May.

And he’s not a masochist either, though his teammates sometimes wonder.

“A lot of them just joke around with me and say I’m crazy and stuff, but ... ” he said, shrugging, “it works, so I just try to do it.”

Yep, you read that right. Crabtree tries to get hit. Crowds the plate. Does whatever he can within the rules. And he never, ever jumps out of the way.

When you step in the batter’s box, getting on base is the goal — even more so when you’re the leadoff hitter — and Crabtree is willing to do whatever it takes.

That’s something his dad taught from the beginning.

“If a ball is comin’ at you, wear it,” he told Tyler. “Get on base. It’s a free base.”

That mentality was reinforced when Crabtree saw that a couple players who he admired while growing up in McAlester were willing to take one for the team, too. So, throughout little league and summer ball and high school, Crabtree welcomed the chance to get hit by a pitch.

But his HBP numbers really soared in college.

While at Eastern Oklahoma College in Wilburton, he played for Craig Price, who was a big fan of small ball. Bunt. Walk. Do anything to get on base and manufacture runs.

“Any way you can get on base ... you do it,” Crabtree said.

Including getting smacked by a fastball.

“And if you get out of the way, he’s yellin’ at you.”

Crabtree got plunked 41 times as a sophomore at Eastern. The next season, his first at UCO, he got hit another 41 times.


by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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