Langley product O’Neill gunning for spot in majors
Former Langley Blaze ballplayer Tyler O’Neill is 21, on the doorstep of the major leagues – and seemingly as calm as can be.
“The goal this year? Start in triple-A and let my performance dictate my timeline to the big leagues,” the slugging Seattle Mariners prospect said.
“I’ve been told that I’ve moved through the system pretty quick here. I’m just trying to perform the best I can every day and let results take care of themselves.” The product of Maple Ridge has a non-roster invite to major league spring training with the Mariners, but Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto has said he won’t rush the outfielder and expects he’ll start the season with their top affiliate, the Tacoma Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League.
The burly, barrel-chested O’Neill was named Baseball America’s double-A player of the year after tearing up the Southern League for the Jackson Generals, posting a .293 average, 24 home runs and 102 RBIs, despite being three years younger than the average position player in that league, according to baseball-reference.com.
It’s worth noting that Baseball America’s 2015 double-A player of the year, Max Kepler, started last season at the triple-A level for the Minnesota Twins but played 113 games with the bigleague club, hitting .235 with 17 home runs and 63 RBI. He’s a bit older than O’Neill, though, as he turns 24 in February.
“It’s going to be great to share the major league locker-room and experience the big league life a little bit, but I know where I’m starting,” O’Neill said of his spring training invite. “I’m going to go to triple-A and make the most of it.
“I’m really excited to be in the northwest this season and be close to home and experience weather patterns that I had to play with growing up. I’m very optimistic. I’m excited to see what I’m going to do this year.”
Despite his gaudy numbers, O’Neill didn’t merit a call-up beyond double-A last year. He said he was “understanding” about not winning a promotion, and said he takes pride in helping Jackson win a league title.
“That was a really awesome experience for me and I saw a little picture of our hardware (the championship rings) on Twitter, so I’m excited to get that in the spring,” O’Neill said. “It’s pretty sweet.”
O’Neill, who was a star in the B.C. Premier League with the Langley Blaze, is slated to play for Canada in the World Baseball Classic. It won’t be his first time playing for the Maple Leaf - O’Neill was part of the Canadian team that grabbed the gold medal at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
“There’s nothing better than playing for Team Canada,” O’Neill said. “Everyone has this hockey accent you don’t experience on a professional ball field. I’m really excited for it.
“I’m not going to be the No. 3 stick in the batting order in the WBC (like he was at the Pan Ams). I’ll be lower down. I’m not going to have that expectation from outside on me, but I’m going to have it for myself.”
- from the Vancouver Sun
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