Former LCA Standout Coming Home
The UK baseball program had fallen on some tough times of late, but that hasn't slowed things down on the recruiting trail.
On Tuesday, Coach Gary Henderson's club landed arguably its biggest signee of the 2010 class, as Wabash (Ill.) Valley College first baseman Tyler Oliver committed to play for the Wildcats over Louisville, Ole Miss, Tulane and Middle Tennessee State.
"I've always wanted to play for Kentucky," Oliver said. "I've always been a UK fan from the beginning. I've had a lot of schools that were talking to me, but I always wanted to go to Kentucky. I've always been a Wildcat."
Oliver returns to Lexington, where he was a five-time All-City selection, a two-time All-State selection, and an All-State Tournament selection at Lexington (Ky.) Christian Academy, where the school won the state tournament as a sophomore. At LCA, Oliver holds every school record, with the exception of home-runs.
Returning home was very important to the junior college transfer. "It means everything in the world to me," Oliver explained. "For my parents to see me play, right after they get off work, and the fact they don't have to worry about driving three to four hours, it just means the world to me. I look forward to getting back home to Lexington."
Oliver's story is unique, to say the least. After being a five-year standout in the area, he was not heavily recruited because of an injury. He ended up signing with Marshall, where the coaching staff gave him a chance, but not many at-bats.
"I never really got a chance to play," Oliver said. "At Marshall, they changed my swing and I didn't do very well. To make matters worse, I got sick right before the season started and lost 20 pounds. I decided I needed a change, so I ended up at Wabash and had a great season and it's led me to Kentucky, where I always wanted to be."
A 'great season' would be a massive understatement. Oliver finished off his junior college career hitting for a .465 average with 25 home runs and 87 RBI's. He also added 17 stolen bases.
The power numbers are music to the ears of Wildcat baseball fans, who have longed for that missing power hitter in the middle of the order it had in previous successful seasons under former head coach John Cohen.
"That's what they've said," Oliver said of the UK baseball coaching staff. "They want me to be a guy that can hit 15 to 20 home runs in the middle of the line-up and drive in some runs for them."
The question then becomes, will the eye-popping numbers at the junior college powerhouse, lead him to a possible selection in the MLB First-year player draft?
"I've filled out the questionaires and stuff, but I've not received much insight, as far as what round or anything," Oliver explained. "I'm just planinng on going to Kentucky, right now. That's where I want to go and I'm not really banking on anything else happening."
Rob Gidel covers UK football and baseball for The Cats Pause. You can follow him on twitter @robgidel