Archive for Thursday, August 10, 2006

Tytla still dreams big

Despite injuries, 2005 LHS grad wants to remain a college athlete

August 10, 2006

A year ago, John Tytla left Lansing to pursue life as a college football player at Coffeyville Community College.

Sometime this month he will depart town for Manhattan to chart a new course in life. He'll begin his sophomore year of college and his first semester at Kansas State University.

His life as a college athlete may be over, or it might be reborn in the Little Apple. Right now Tytla isn't sure. After a longer-than-expected recovery from knee surgery, Tytla's body tells him to hang up his cleats. His heart tells him otherwise.

"I've got to get my leg fixed first," he said. "I've got to get some physical therapy done and then hopefully I'll come back and see what I can do."

Tytla may return to the football field as a walk-on at K-State. After a summer playing baseball with the Lansing Cubs, he's also considering walking on to the Wildcats' up-and-coming baseball team.

"I might go back to football. I might go back to baseball," Tytla said. "There's no telling what I'll do."

Whatever his decision - and whatever his body allows, Tytla will continue to dream big.

FOOTBALL FIRST

Tytla's college plans seemed crystal clear a year ago: Go to Coffeyville to play football for two years and then move on to a four-year program.

Simple enough, right?

Not so fast.

A year of wear and tear on the body that comes with playing college football, paired with a slow recovery from knee surgery, can do plenty to change a person's priorities. That was the case for Tytla.

He left for Coffeyville last fall expecting to redshirt during his first year of college. He planned to get bigger and stronger, learn the system and eventually have knee surgery to repair a nagging high school injury. All of those happened as planned, but there were a few things that didn't go according to plan. Tytla's recovery from surgery - the injury was the result of "a combination of problems" - went slower than expected. During that time, his passion for football began to disappear.

"I just had continuous problems with injuries, so I just said 'God's got a different plan for me,'" Tytla said.

What exactly is that different plan?

"Maybe it's on the baseball field," Tytla said with a laugh. "I'll give it one last try before I hang it up."

And so it was that Tytla talked to Lansing Cubs coach Michael Smith about playing American Legion baseball this summer. Smith happily agreed.

"He gives us leadership, obviously," Smith said. "I need him to bring his 'A' game. That's all I need."

BACK TO BASEBALL

Tytla would've joined the Cubs at the beginning of the summer, but he had classroom obligations to finish up at Coffeyville during June. He earned Dean's Honor Roll honors at Coffeyville. Still, the timing worked out perfect because utility player Logan Ryan played all of June. Ryan reported to football practice at Highland Community College in early July and opened a roster spot for Tytla.

"He's been in the plans all season," Smith said. "I knew he had to finish his obligations (at Coffeyville) in the summer, but I knew I'd have him for July and beyond."

In his first game of the summer, Tytla pitched against the Easton Outlaws. He scattered nine hits, struck out four and allowed just two earned runs in a 6-1 loss.

"I hadn't pitched since senior year," Tytla said.

Although his arm was strong, his swing showed signs of rust early in the summer. He went 0-for-4 at the plate in his first doubleheader before his bat came around. He eventually became a steady contributor at the plate. He homered in two of his last four at-bats and logged a .344 average.

"The bat's where it needs to be," Tytla said. "I just need to keep it up and polish up a few things. I've got some things I still need to tweak up if I'm going to go anywhere for baseball."

TYTLA A WILDCAT?

Tytla will attend Kansas State this fall. With the new school he hopes will come a new opportunity to play college athletics whether it's on the football or baseball field.

"I figure you only have so much time to play in athletics. You might as well give it a shot while you can," Tytla said.

Tytla admitted his shot might be a long one, but he said he's going to enjoy the journey while trying to make it. He said he has a lot to learn.

Regardless of how things go, however, Tytla said he is going to enjoy the journey.

"The worst thing they can do is say no, and thanks for the try," he said. "If I make it, I make it. If I don't, I don't."

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