The role player

Ballplayer gets second chance at game he loves

         By Cam Dion

            Tyler Yamamoto was never recruited to play college baseball. He was not even a starter in high school, instead filling in as a role player. After two days of tryouts in the fall of 2009, Tyler Yamamoto found himself without a baseball team for the first time since elementary school. He was cut from the University of Northern Colorado’s club baseball team as a freshman, and his baseball career looked like it was over.

Tyler Yamamoto plays on the UNC baseball team.
Tyler Yamamoto is hoping to secure a starting spot on UNC's baseball team next year. Photo by Cam Dion

            With the free time, Yamamoto focused on school and played numerous intramural sports. During the spring, while playing softball and watching the start of the Major League Baseball season, he realized how much he missed the game of baseball.
            Yamamoto did not start playing baseball until the third grade. He enjoyed watching his father play softball, but his parents made him wait until his older brother started playing baseball.
            Baseball was not the only sport Yamamoto played at Iolani School in Honolulu, Hawaii; he also played volleyball. Since volleyball was during the fall and baseball was during the spring, he was able to play both sports. However, during his junior year, volleyball was moved to the spring. He played both sports, but his focus was volleyball, causing him to miss baseball games and practice.
            “The summer before my senior year I played summer ball. I got back into it,” Yamamoto said.
            Now focused on baseball, Yamamoto embraced his spot as a role player. During his senior year, the senior-heavy team won the league title.
            “We had good team chemistry and I think that’s why we did so well,” Yamamoto said.
            While working out with the friends over the summer before his sophomore year of college, Yamamoto was not sure if he wanted to try out for the club team again. He heard about a turnover in the coaching staff of the Division I team and took his chances.
            “I kind of considered it, never took it too seriously. I just wanted to play baseball,” Yamamoto said.
            He got into contact with Coach Carl Iwasaki, who agreed to put Yamamoto on the Division I team’s fall roster. Thanks to an impressive tryout period, he went from being cut by the club team to making the Division I team in less than a year.
            “Yamo is a great kid. He’s great to have around and brings a lot to the team,” Iwasaki said.
            Yamamoto says that effort is the most important skill he brings to the team.
            “If you bring it every day, you force everyone else to bring it every day,” Yamamoto said.
            At 5’6”, Yamamoto is the shortest player on the baseball team.
            “I would say that baseball is one of the few sports where size helps but it’s not really a determining factor,” Yamamoto said.
            T.J. Berge, a senior, will be graduating this semester, leaving the second base job up for grabs next season. Yamamoto tries to avoid thinking about next year.
            “I don’t really think about that. We are just going to focus on this season right now,” Yamamoto said.
            Berge is confident in Yamamoto’s ability.
            “Tyler’s a lot of fun to be around. He has the talent and drive to help the team right now and in the future,” Berge said.
            Yamamoto has played in 10 of the team’s first 24 games, starting six of them. He has hit .217 with two runs scored and three runs driven in. With the team 3-21, player’s like Yamamoto will need to step up and help the team turn around its season.

Tyler Yamamoto
Dath of Birth: April 12, 1991
Hometown: Kaneohe, Hawaii
High School: Iolani School
Year: Sophomore
Major: Elementary education
Favorite MLB team: Atlanta Braves
Favorite MLB players: Chipper Jones, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Dustin Pedroia
Source: Tyler Yamamoto