By Bob Gerard
There’s no rest for the weary when you’re a baseball player aspiring to a spot in The Show – the major leagues. For Macclenny native Tyler Rhoden it was plane trip from Nashville to Billings, Montana.
Flush from an SEC championship with the Vanderbilt Commodores, Rhoden was selected by the Cincinnati Reds as the 679 player chosen in the major league draft and sent to their rookie league affiliate, the Billings Mustangs.
“He was drafted in the 22nd round,” said his mother Jane Rhoden. “He flew home after he was drafted and we had a signing party for him.”
The 6’3” 220-pound son of Jane and Jamie Rhoden of Macclenny has had some good outings in his early going with the Mustangs. Though he pitched in only four games for the Mustangs, he has already notched a win and was crucial in stopping a three-game win streak for the Great Falls White Sox.
Rhoden came into the game in the fifth inning and retired the first six Sox he faced, striking out two. He was strong throughout the rest of the game and picked up a save for his effort. Rhoden pitched four innings of no-hit ball and had three strike-outs.
The rookie leagues are like a giant classroom for a baseball player. Rhoden will learn a lot and hopefully progress up through the ranks of single A, double AA and triple AAA ball on the way to the majors.
He has had a lot of success in his young career, going to the Vanderbilt Commodores after a strong career pitching for the Bolles Bulldogs. The right-hander was part of the rotation for the Commodores and went 4-0 this season on the mound.
Rhoden was a standout during his time at Vanderbilt. He pitched one of his best games ever when the Commodores needed it most. He went 6.2 innings, a career best, in the SEC championship this spring win over the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Commodores advanced as far as the regional finals, but lost to the University of Michigan.
“Vandy was ranked number one in the country and Tyler pitched the SEC Championship game,” said Jane Rhoden. “It was the first time in 27 years that they won the title.”
Rhoden went to Billings soon after finishing school at Vandy, even though he had a year of eligibility remaining. He lives with a host family and was plugged right into the lineup. He is with one of the most stable teams in minor league baseball. Billings has been affiliated with the Reds for 34 years, one of the longest-running connections in baseball. The Mustangs have won the Pioneer League 14 times but are currently 5 games off the pace in the North division.
“He calls us at 2 o’clock in the morning after games to tell us how it went,” said Jane Rhoden. The Rhoden family is chomping at the bit to go out to see him. They will catch a game later this summer when the Mustangs travel to Salt Lake City.
If all goes well, we could be seeing Tyler Rhoden a little closer — on the mound for Cincinnati in years to come.