By STEVE KRAH
Some college baseball players did not get to have a summer season in 2020.
Indiana University’s Braydon Tucker pitched in two different leagues. The right-handed pitcher from Brazil, Ind., was in the College Summer League at Grand Park in Westfield, Ind., then accepted the invitation to hurl in the Coastal Plain League.
The 12-team Grand Park league sprung up when other circuits opted out because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Used mostly as a Tuesday starter (most CSL games were played on Mondays and Tuesdays with training at Pro X Athlete Development Wednesday through Friday), Tucker drove weekdays from Brazil to Grand Park to train or play for the Tropics, a team featuring Josh Galvan as manager and Ryan Cheek as an assistant coach.
As that season wound down, IU pitching coach Justin Parker let Tucker know about an opportunity with the Macon (Ga.) Bacon and the righty took it.
The Bacon, with Jimmy Turk as manager and Josh Teichroew as pitching coach, operated as part of a three-team pod with the Savannah (Ga.) Bananas and Lexington County (S.C.) Blow Fish. Macon teammates included Indiana pitchers Ty Bothwell, Matt Litwicki, Connor Manous and Braden Scott.
Used mostly as a starter with some relief work on scheduled “bullpen” days, Tucker made one trip to Columbia, S.C. He made five mound appearances (three starts) with an 0-0 record, 4.97 earned run average, 14 strikeouts and seven walks in 12 2/3 innings.
His summer four-seam fastball was thrown at 90 to 93 mph, occasionally touching 94. That’s up from 89 to 92 and touching 93 in the spring and 89 to 91 and touching 92 as a freshman in 2019.
Thrown from a three-quarter arm angle like all his pitches, Tucker’s fastball is thrown with a split-finger grip and has sinking action.
His slider moves from 1-to-7 or 2-to-8 on the clock face, meaning the movement (both horizontal and vertical) is in to the left-handed batter and away from a righty.
He throws a “circle” change-up.
He’s working to add two other pitchers to his selection — a curveball an cutter (cut fastball).
“The curve plays off the slider,” says Tucker. “It is more vertical than horizontal.”
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Tucker was slated to spend most of June and all of July with the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Keene (N.H.) Swamp Bats, but Keene did not get a chance to go after a second straight NECBL when the league elected to cancel the season.
Tucker, who has logged two springs with the Hoosiers (he has started four of his nine games and is a combined 2-1 with a 4.10 ERA, 12 strikeouts and 11walks in 26 1/3 innings) and played in the summer of 2019 with the Prospect League’s Terre Haute (Ind.) Rex. That team was managed by Tyler Wampler. Jeremy Lucas coached pitchers and catchers. The PL did not take the field this summer either.
A 2018 graduate of Northview High School in Brazil, Tucker helped the Craig Trout-coached Knights win an IHSAA Class 3A state championship in his sophomore year. When he was not on the mound during his prep career, he logged time at first base, second base, third base and all over the outfield.
There was an expectation with Trout of hard play and focus.
“He wanted us to have a loose practice and enjoy it, but if we didn’t execute in practice — like somebody missed the cut-off man — it was a waste of time,” says Tucker, using his own words.
Tucker committed to Indiana when Chris Lemonis was head coach. Most of the pursuing was done by former Hoosier assistants Kyle Bunn (pitching coach) and Kyle Cheesebrough (recruiting director).
Soon after high school graduation, Tucker enrolled in summer school. By the fall, the coaching staff had changed and Jeff Mercer was in charge with Parker as pitching coach.
“I don’t have one single word to described what it’s like to describe working with them,” says Tucker of Mercer, Parker and the rest of the IU staff. “It’s very detailed and developmental. It’s structured to the point that you don’t need down time. You always have something to do.”
Even when pitchers are engaged in throwing bullpens, long toss or some other specific thing, they are expected to do something productive and help their teammates. The same is true for all of the Hoosiers.
Tucker was born in Terre Haute and grew up in New Palestine, Ind., moving to Brazil as he was starting high school. His father (Jim) grew up in Clay County and his mother (Tammy) was raised on the south side of Terre Haute.
Braydon started in T-ball in New Palestine and was 6 when he made an Indiana Bandits 9U travel team. He attended a camp at the old Bandits Yard in Greenfield, Ind., conducted by Harold Gibson (father of Texas Rangers pitcher Kyle Gibson). Jim Tucker retained the information and used it with Braydon.
After playing two more years with the Bandits, there were three summers with the Indiana Prospects (led by Shane Stout and Mark Peters) and one with the Hancock County-based Indiana Travelers (Mark Horsely).
From 13U to 16U, Tucker played for coaches Rick Arnold and Dan Metzinger with the Ironman Baseball out of Louisville. The 17U summer was spent with the Cincinnati Spikes. Trent Hanna was the head coach and was assisted by Aaron Goe, Stephen Rodgers and Joe Janusik.
Jim Tucker is a senior sourcing team leader at GE Aviation in Terre Haute. Tammy Tucker works is at Catalent Pharma Solutions in Bloomington. She had been in quality management at Rolls-Royce in Indianapolis.
Braydon (who turned 21 in July) has two brothers — Dakota (27) and Trey (19). Dakota Tucker played baseball and football at New Palestine then football at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, where he earned a mechanical engineering that he now uses at Ford Motor Company in Detroit. Trey Tucker is a sophomore at Indiana State University in Terre Haute. He played baseball and basketball at Northview.
Braydon Tucker, who is a Sports Marketing & Management major at IU, represented the Knights on the hardwood for three years. Now back at school, he is taking five classes this fall (all on online). Class begins Monday, Aug. 24. Tucker says baseball facilities are not to open until Sept. 17.