MILWAUKEE -- One takeaway from the Brewers’ first day of the 2021 MLB Draft?
Play multiple sports, kids.
The Brewers’ second selection on Sunday, Wright State University second baseman Tyler Black, was a talented defenseman in hockey before focusing on baseball. At No. 33 overall, Black was the first player born in Canada selected in this year’s Draft. And he was the second former hockey player to be drafted by Milwaukee on Sunday; first-rounder Sal Frelick also played the sport in high school in Massachusetts.
“I was with my family, friends, about 50-60 people,” Black said. “I got the call right before the pick and tried to kind of keep my composure. But once I saw my name get announced on the screen, it was just mayhem. It was unbelievable -- a dream come true.”
On MLB Network’s coverage of the Draft, Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin mentioned this lofty comp for Black, a left-handed hitting, offense-first player: Fellow Canadian Joey Votto.
“Certainly, we’re looking for athletic players who can play around the field,” Brewers scouting director Tod Johnson said. “And also, guys that can hit. We think we got two guys today that can really hit. That’s always a big piece of it as well.”
Black is the son of broadcaster Rod Black, who was the Blue Jays’ television play-by-play announcer when Tyler was born in 2000. That gave Tyler an opportunity to grow up around Major League Baseball, including Spring Training trips to Dunedin, Fla.
“I think the biggest thing was just [seeing] how guys handle themselves, how guys approach the game, routines, work ethic, stuff like that,” Black said. “You see guys showing up to the field five, six hours before a game and it's like, 'Why is he doing this?' You don't really understand it. A lot of people show up at 7 p.m. and when the first pitch flies, they don't know what's put into it. I think that's really how I kind of learned how to approach the game and really kind of developed my work ethic from being around the game.”
And he wasn’t just a fly on the wall. Even as a boy, Black asked questions.
“I was just kind of a loud kid,” he said. “I tried to get as much out of it as I could. I'd ask questions all the time and I just tried to get as much as I could out of it.”
Black eventually showed promise as an infielder who has played all over the diamond and with a bat that produced consistent line-drive contact. He suffered a right shoulder injury in 2020 and underwent surgery after the season was cancelled due to the pandemic, but he returned in ’21 to bat .383 with a 1.179 OPS and 13 home runs in 48 games for Wright State.
“Somewhat of a smaller school,” Johnson said, “but he really performed. They always play a tough schedule non-conference, and then they always play into tournament games. So we have seen him play against top-end college competition and really not [just] hold his own, he’s done better than that.”
Black's selection after the Brewers took Boston College center fielder Frelick at No. 15 overall in the first round continued a run of college hitters for Milwaukee. All five of their picks in last year’s pandemic-shortened Draft were also college bats.
Asked about that trend, Johnson said, “sometimes the best players are just college bats.”
It was not the plan going into the night, he said.
“If you would have said these were the two guys we were going to end up with, we would have been pretty excited,” Johnson said. “The fact that it’s worked out that way with college bats is not necessarily something that’s a target. We had a number of other guys from different profiles in our mix; arms and other high school players. It just fell the way it did with two more college bats, and we’ll see how it goes the rest of the way.
Two more days of drafting remained as of Black’s selection. Rounds 2-10 took place Monday, and Rounds 11-20 will be held Tuesday starting at 11 a.m. CT on MLB.com.