DUNEDIN, Fla. – Blue Jays prospect Ybarra holds his family above all else
After leaving the game for family matters the pitcher came back a whole new player
DUNEDIN- Baseball means the world to Tyler Ybarra, but for the Toronto Blue Jays minor leaguer, his family means the universe.
The 24-year-old left-hander has wanted to be a big-league pitcher ever since he was just four years old, but a leave of absence two years after he was selected in the 43rd round of the 2008 draft put those dreams on hold.
In 2010, Ybarra made one of the toughest decisions of his life when he walked away from the game of baseball to be with his family.
“I was young, I was about 19 years old then and a lot of things were happening around me in terms of life and growing up, and then my family hit a rough patch,” says Ybarra.
Though he refrained from getting into specifics, the son of a former Cincinnati Reds fifth-round pick believes that the decision to take a step back from baseball was really important to him, and really helped to put the game that he loves into perspective.
“It was a year that looking back, I’m glad I did it,” says the Wellington, KS native. “I grew up a lot through that year and it made me realize how much I appreciate the game of baseball. Missing 18 months of it straight; getting back to it was a real good time. It was a real humbling experience.”
During the time that the teenager left it all behind, he lived life as a normal 19-year-old.
“I was completely away for the majority of it,” he says. “I was working a regular job [from] 9 to 6; I was staying pretty busy.”
For Ybarra, it seems like the decision paid off tenfold. The time off didn’t seem to slow him down, as after returning to the rookie class Bluefield Blue Jays in 2011 the pitcher played some of his best ball to date. Toronto’s farmhand put up a 2-0 record in 46 innings while striking out 54 batters.
The fastball-heavy pitcher credits this success on the mound to his new outlook on baseball.
“I quit taking the game for granted,” he says. “I showed up to work every day with a positive attitude. I came back thinking, ‘If I’m going to do it I’m going to go 100 per cent and let the ball fall wherever.’”
In November, the family that Ybarra holds so dear grew by one more as he welcomed the birth of his first child, a beautiful baby girl.
“She was kind of the focal point of my whole entire off-season and I really enjoyed that,” says the new dad. “Being a father is probably the most proud and exciting thing that’s ever happened to me. And I try to spend as much time with her as I can.”
Being with the organization since 2008 and most recently playing with the Dunedin Blue Jays of the Class A-Advanced Florida State League, Ybarra calls Dunedin his second home, but for the family man, Kansas is where he likes to be.
“Back home in Kansas, my whole family stays there,” he says. “I’m a big family guy so I like to get back there.”