When you see New Mexico Military Institute’s baseball pitcher, Tyler Hardwick in photos, he looks different from the last time he started in the championship game against Farmington for Goddard one year ago.
Tyler looks like a man in person when he trots out to the mound in his No. 25 white NMMI uniform.
He’s put on 25 pounds of solid muscle, and learned to pitch at the Junior College Division I level. Tyler hasn’t developed any new pitches from the ones he threw in high school.
The pitches he does throw are a fastball, which he has improved from 88 to 92 mph from his senior year to his freshman year.
Tyler has worked on his curveball, slider and changeup, which are dangerous. When he needs one pitch for an out, many hitters think he will throw them his fastball, but Tyler has developed his slider and will throw that for an out. That goes to show what a year on a training table, weights and structure can do for an athlete.
Tyler had an outstanding freshman season starting 14 games, pitching 70 innings and only giving up 65 hits and striking out 64 batters while walking 33 batters. He had a respectable 3.20 ERA while going 6-6. Tyler is a starting power pitcher and credits a lot of his game to the weight-lifting program he was on when he first got to campus. He maintains a lifting and running program in season.
“Going from high school to college is more mental,” Tyler said. “Every inning I’m out there, I have to have my head in the game. When I go out there, I almost always have to have my A game if I want to win. That’s the biggest difference between high school and college, the Western Junior College Athletic Conference is a good conference to play in.”
One of Tyler’s best games of the season came against the Odessa Wranglers where he pitched a complete game and shut them out in seven innings of work. He struck out four batters and gave up four hits in the game picking up his fourth win of the season.
“Hardwick gave up just four hits,” NMMI head coach Chris Cook said. “He pitched a heck of a game against one of the best offensive teams in the country.”
He has developed under Cook and pitching coach, former major leaguer, Jermaine Van Buren. Tyler credits coach Van Buren for not trying to change him and taking what he is and fine-tuning it. Moving up from the high school to college level, the game according to Tyler is faster with bigger players and he has had to learn to hone in on the mental aspect of his pitching.
“Coach Van Buren doesn’t change anything,” Tyler said. “He tells you to be you. The one thing he preached to me was to be aggressive all the time.”
Before Tyler takes the mound, he and his coaches will pour over tapes, charts and scouting reports, so he knows where and how to pitch the hitters he will face. After a successful freshman season at NMMI, Tyler is in Wichita, Kansas, playing for the Kansas Curve. He’s there trying to improve and face different competition and coaching than he has had the past couple of years. So far this summer, Tyler is 5-1.
“The skill level is so different here,” Tyler said. “Teams are stacked with DI players, so it is different the way they play here.”
Tyler went undrafted in June’s Major League Baseball draft. Not to be deterred, he is getting looks from several Division I schools with the University of New Mexico being one of them. Tyler is looking past his baseball days and the dream scenario is that he can get his education paid for and play baseball. When his baseball days are over with, he would like to be a traveling biologist. He’d like to go to other countries and help different species of animals that are close to becoming extinct.
Tyler thinks the best thing NMMI has taught him is to be disciplined and be more organized in his athletics, school work and life.
“I don’t regret going to NMMI one bit,” Tyler said. “I feel like I’m more organized in my time and I’ve learned so many things. The academics are really good, and the teachers know what they’re doing. You just have to stay on top of your stuff.”
As Tyler gets ready to start his sophomore year of college, he feels NMMI has helped his confidence as he moves forward trying to graduate and play in the Major Leagues.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.