Tyler Stubblefield | 5’10” | 185 | Age 24 | Shortstop | R/R | Class of 2010 | Woodstock GA
Currently plays for: The Fort Wayne Tin Caps of the California League. Class A
Tell the KSU and Padres fans a little about yourself
My names Tyler Stubblefield and I was born in Kennesaw Georgia. I grew up around the area playing ball. When I was eight years old I played for the Cherokee Reds and Head Coach Dan Carmichael. We used to travel around and play ball everywhere, and one week he took us to a Kennesaw State baseball game and introduced us to the head coach at the time Mike Sansing and he told us that one of us players would be playing for Kennesaw State one day. At a young age I didn’t believe it, I didn’t know where I would be playing or if I would even be playing baseball, but growing up as I progressed I saw that my skills were that of a Division I caliber baseball player. I started thinking you know, maybe I will be a D1 baseball player. I never thought I would be going to Kennesaw State or anything, but I wanted to play Division I baseball, that was my dream. As things shaped up, I wound up getting offered by Kennesaw State and decided to take the offer and sign with KSU. It was very, very meaningful to me because my uncle Craig Watson had one of the first baseball scholarships ever given out and played for the first baseball team ever at Kennesaw State University (before it was called Kennesaw State University).
At Kennesaw State I had a great career and played for four years and after my third year I was selected in the 33rd round by the Atlanta Braves. I just didn’t think it was the right for me, and I was a little upset because things didn’t go the way I wanted them to so I decided to go back to school. I had an okay senior year, not what I wanted to have BUT I guess good enough and was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 22nd round and that is where I am now.
What brought you to playing baseball?
You know, it’s hard to say what brought me to playing baseball. I was born into an athletic family I guess you could say. As a kid sports were something I loved to do and got my attention, and I played every sport growing up. I loved football and was decent at it but baseball definitely was my first love and I couldn’t get enough of it. I’ve been playing baseball since I was five years old and I usually played a year ahead of my age group until I got to around 15-16 years old. I did play varsity football in high school at Woodstock High School where I went for my first year and a half and then my grades started dropping so my parents sent me to Riverside Military Academy which was by far the best thing to ever happen to me. It was an all boys boarding school and I got to focus on my athletics and academics.
Were you highly recruited out of high school?
You know it’s hard to say if I was highly recruited or not. Being the caliber of baseball player I was, I had a lot of letters from a lot of the big Division I schools. I visited Texas, Auburn etc. I suffered an injury around the big recruiting period when I was 16 while playing for a team out of East Cobb that was coached at the time by the hitting coach for Kennesaw State University. The day I broke my leg I never got another phone call or letter from any big school. Throughout the summer the KSU hitting coach saw something he really liked in me and offered me a scholarship. It was weird because I always wanted to be a Division I baseball player and then I broke my leg and thought it would never happen. Then when he offered me the scholarship I was at ease with everything and thought that it was the right fit for me, and in the end I wound up being correct. I went into Kennesaw State as a freshman and I played 40 or so games my freshman year, and then 50 or more each year after that. It was the best decision that I ever made and it was the right fit for me.
What positions have you played throughout life, and what’s your natural position?
Growing up I was a natural shortstop and never played anything but that. As I got to college I played second base my freshman year, my sophomore year I played third base and then after that for my final two seasons at KSU I played mostly shortstop. You have to play where they need you to. In the minor leagues I am a super duper utility guy I guess you could say. My first year in pro ball in the Northwest League with the Eugene Emeralds I played 30 something games at short, 20 something games at second base and the rest at third base. Last year in Low-A ball I played every position except catcher, including pitcher. It’s awesome, it’s fun and it’s good to be able to be versatile because it’s very valuable to teams. I was a utility guy in Advanced-A and now at Low-A I’ve been starting every day at either short stop or second base.
Why did you choose KSU?
I chose Kennesaw State because I wanted to play right away when I got to college. I wanted to give myself an opportunity to get better and be seen by pro scouts and one day be able to get drafted. After doing the research and listening to the KSU coaches talk I could tell they were heading in the right direction. I made my decision so I could play every day and make an impact for the school and the athletic program.
How was your experience at KSU as a whole and what did you take from it?
My experience at KSU was unforgettable, it was awesome. It was everything I thought it would be. You know everybody at first was asking “why are you going to college at KSU, you’re not going to have a college life” blah blah blah. You know that’s not true…KSU is one of the biggest schools in the state of Georgia and I made some lifelong best friends there. The school’s got a great atmosphere, but the athletics atmosphere could be better.
The athletic program was like a fraternity there. Every time we did something it was all of the athletic teams doing it together. I wouldn’t have traded my college experience at KSU for anything, it was unbelievable for me and I’ll never forget it.
Why didn’t you sign with the Braves after being drafted in 2009 after your junior year?
Anybody from Atlanta thinks it’s awesome I got drafted by Atlanta and asks why I didn’t sign with the Braves. Yeah it would have been great to sign with the hometown team, but after being drafted and talking to my family and everything we really didn’t feel it would be the right fit, my heart just wasn’t in it with the Braves. It was the hardest decision of my life to tell the Braves no I won’t sign but it was the thing that I had to do. I returned my senior year, and was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 22nd round. That decision I made to go back to school was one of the best in my life. The Padres organization is an unbelievable one and like I said, I was looking for the right fit and I really feel this is it.
What’s the biggest difference between minor league baseball and college baseball?
The speed of the game is so much faster but the caliber of the players is around the same. I’ve played with guys in college who are better that aren’t playing pro, and guys that are playing pro who shouldn’t be. The hitters aren’t much different, but the pitchers are. In a college weekend series a good team has usually one or two really good starting pitchers and one or two really good bullpen guys. In professional baseball the pitching staffs are stacked so you have to be ready to play every night. In college you always had to be ready to play Friday and Saturday nights, because you always had to grind out at bats vs the other team’s best pitchers. In pro ball you have to grind out at bats every day, seven days a week. In college you play at most five days a week, and in pro ball we have to play seven days a week and only get about one off day per month. Mentally you have to be ready to face somebody good every night. The pitchers in professional baseball are more consistent and throw more strikes. They don’t throw harder than guys in college, but they can control their curve balls and change ups better. They also have more pitches than the average college pitcher has. In college you’ll face guys who have a four seam fastball, a change up and a curve ball whereas in professional baseball you’ll face a guy with a four seam fastball, a two seam fastball, he might be throwing a slider and a curve ball and maybe even a change up.
You played at both A and Advanced A ball, what’s the most noticeable difference there?
This year I played both Low-A ball and Advanced-A ball and the most noticeable difference is the pitching. You have guys that will throw strikes and be around the zone but the biggest difference is hard to explain. In Low-A ball they will usually go 5-6 innings because they have one inning where they lose focus and get a little wild whereas in Advanced-A Ball, these same caliber guys with an extra year or two of experience under their belts go six or seven innings and pound the zone and throw strikes. The biggest difference is that they are around the strike zone a lot more and make pitches when they need to make them.
What’s life like on the road?
A lot of people think that as soon as you sign, it’s all riches and a glamorous life. A lot of people don’t understand that the minor leagues is a grind. We’re on the road a lot and living out of a suitcase. We’re on buses traveling around the country. I’m away from home from March until the middle of September every year. We’re getting to see some really cool places but we’re traveling around ALL the time. A lot of guys aren’t cut out for it and a lot of guys aren’t mature enough for it. It’s a sink or swim situation because you have to be prepared mentally to travel and be away from family and friends, and you have to learn to accept failure and not dwell on every at bat or pitch since we play so many games.
What is your workout routine like?
It varies. It depends whether we are in season or out of season. My offseason workouts don’t start until a good two or three weeks after the season or maybe a month depending on how much I play during the season. During the off-season I focus on getting stronger, working on my flexibility and explosiveness and also trying to maintain my speed. That’s a big thing as I get older is trying to maintain my speed. But basically in the off-season I want to try and give myself the best opportunity to be stronger so I can go into spring training better, bigger and stronger than I was the year before.
During the season we are playing seven days a week but we still have to condition twice per week, and workout twice per week.
Off-season work outs and in seasons workouts are completely different. In season we’re trying to maintain our strength and keep our bodies in shape so that we can prevent injuries. During the off-season I try and get in the weight room at least four times per week so I can come into spring training as strong as I can be.
Who are the toughest pitchers you’ve faced?
It was actually in college when I faced Chris Sale who played at Florida Gulf Coast and Rex Brothers who played at Lipscomb. Sale was drafted in 2010 when I was drafted by the Padres, and Brothers was drafted in 2009, both were first round picks. They’re both lefties, and Sale has even topped out at 100. Sale spent 13 days in the minor leagues before taking on a set up role in the Chicago White Sox bullpen and now he’s a starter for the White Sox. Rex Brothers is in the big leagues with the Rockies. They both throw really hard and have 90 MPH plus sliders. Both of those guys were better than any pitcher I’ve ever faced in the minor leagues so far.
What do you enjoy doing off the field?
When we’re not playing baseball I really really enjoy relaxing. During the season it’s all video games, movies and sitting there goofing off with my teammates. During the off-season I love to hunt and fish, so I try and do as much of that as much as I possible can during the off-season.
Do you still keep up with KSU baseball?
During Spring Training and right towards the end of Spring Training I try to keep up with as much KSU baseball as I can. I like to see how they’re doing. As I’ve been out of college now for three years, I don’t really know as many people on the team as I used to so I don’t keep up with any particular players anymore but I do try and keep up with the team because I’m hoping one day they’ll get a Division I ring for Coach Sansing. He’s been an awesome coach, and has been doing it for awhile. I still talk to Coach Sansing here and there, I also talk to Coach Tucker and my hitting coach Ryan Coe who is now a scout for the Texas Rangers.
How long do you plan on playing baseball?
The big question for everybody that all of us players talk about and goof off about is how long do we plan on playing baseball if we don’t make the major leagues and what do we do after our baseball careers are done. For me, my lifelong dream is to play Major League Baseball, whether it’s one day or for ten years and being a utility guy for somebody. I’m going to chase the dream as long as I possibly can, I’m going to play as long as I can. A lot of times if the first organization isn’t the one for you, the second one might be so I’m going to play until somebody tells me I can’t play. The first time somebody tells me I’m not right for their organization I’m not going to give up, and I’m going to try and get on with another organization to see if the second one is good for me. If that one’s not good for me then I guess I will hang them up and try to find something that suits me and makes me happy.
What do you want to do after baseball?
After baseball I would really like to coach, but I don’t want to coach anything lower than college ball. I really want to coach and manage in the minor leagues and hopefully in the major leagues so that’s my goal if baseball doesn’t work out, but I’m not planning on pursuing that until baseball is completely over.
That’s all the questions we have for you
Thank you for the interview. I like what you’re doing with the Owl Howl and hopefully Kennesaw State is going in the right direction and I think it is. I look forward to seeing how the baseball team does this year.
Thanks Tyler, we wish you good luck with the rest of the season, and hopefully we can check in with you again soon.Follow @KSUOwlHowl