'This is all you dream about': Black excels before parents in debut

May 1st, 2024

MILWAUKEE -- Baseball's youngest position player group got even younger on a night Brewers prospect and his family will never forget.

The Brewers called up their No. 4 prospect -- and No. 42 overall -- before Tuesday's 8-2 win over the Rays, adding him to a roster that already included 20-year-old and No. 2 overall prospect Jackson Chourio plus Sal Frelick, Brice Turang, Joey Ortiz, Joey Wiemer and Oliver Dunn. All of them are either rookies or second-year big leaguers, and all have ranked among MLB Pipeline's Top 30 Milwaukee prospects within the past calendar year.

Black wasn’t in the starting lineup but got right to work anyway, replacing designated hitter Gary Sánchez when Sánchez injured his right hamstring on a first-inning fielder’s choice. Black promptly doubled in his first career at-bat and later singled with his father, Canadian sportscaster Rod Black, actually calling play-by-play with tears in his eyes during an interview on Bally Sports Wisconsin.

“It’s cool,” Black said. “[His parents] were in Cancun and I called them late last night and they were able to hop on a flight this morning. I’m really lucky they were here.”

The day felt right from the start.

"I feel like I belong here," Black said after taking his first round of batting practice at American Family Field. "I'm ready to play baseball."

Black, 23, will wear No. 7 and mostly appear at first base or as the designated hitter for the Brewers. He was not in the starting lineup after a delayed flight got him to the ballpark not long before batting practice, but he finished 2-for-4 with one run scored.

Black was in Milwaukee last year to accept his Brewers Minor League Player of the Year Award -- an honor he shared with Chourio -- but he was wearing street clothes that day. On Tuesday, a number of his young teammates advised him to not let the moment pass him by.

"I've had five or six people tell me to soak it in," Black said. "Man, this is all you dream about. Walking up here and seeing [Turang], Sal and those guys, it was really cool."

Black is in the Majors for the first time, but he's no stranger to the league. His father was one of Canada's preeminent sportscasters for years, including a decade as television play-by-play man for the Blue Jays until Tyler was 9 years old. Rod and Nancy Black had just started a beach vacation in Cancun when their son called to inform them he'd been called up. They booked the first flight to Milwaukee.

Tyler only got the news himself when he picked up his phone Monday and saw six missed calls from Triple-A manager Rick Sweet.

"I think it's a thing of being where your feet are," Black said. "I'm going to try to keep it as simple as possible."

Simply put, Black's strength is his hit tool. He was taken in Competitive Balance Round A -- No. 33 overall -- in the 2021 MLB Draft out of Wright State University, and he has posted an .884 OPS in his Minor League career with nearly as many walks (172) as strikeouts (191). After a slow start to the 2024 season, the left-handed-hitting infielder has turned it on, batting .303 with five homers, 18 RBIs and three steals with Triple-A Nashville while playing at first and third base.

In 238 games over four Minor League seasons, Black has hit .281 with 28 homers, 134 RBIs and 76 steals, including 55 steals across two levels last season.

That speed, Brewers manager Pat Murphy said, "is part of our style. We pick the opportunities. We're looking for those opportunities, and we've been pretty successful. The deal is that the threat of the steal, the high percentage [of success so far], make it an effective tool."

Defensively, Black has been a work in progress for some time. He has played the most games in his pro career at second base, followed by third. But considering how the Brewers are constructed, they had Black work extensively at first base this year with infield instructor Matt Erickson. Black said he has taken to the position and feels "athletic" there.

"He's coming on," Murphy said. "He's a really good athlete and moves really well left to right. It's just experience that he lacks. That's kind of a theme for us."

The Brewers are indeed young and relatively inexperienced. Baseball Reference has a metric that weights a team's average age by at-bats and games played, and by that measure, the Brewers and Guardians are neck and neck for the youngest hitters in the game, just ahead of the A's as of Tuesday.

"I think it's really exciting," Murphy said. "I hope the fan base embraces it because there's some really exciting players you can see here for years to come. It's their first crack at it."