Tanner Myatt grew up like any other boy, dreaming to one day play Major League Baseball.
Last week his dream began to come true.
Myatt was selected by the New York Yankees in the 11th round of the MLB draft. He left for Tampa Bay, Fla., Tuesday, for a sports physical, to sign his contract and to learn where he will play baseball next.
“It’s a surreal moment. This is something I’ve dreamed about ever since I was a kid,” Myatt said. “That’s what every kid’s dream is, to play pro ball. It’s unreal. I just never thought I’d be able to make it, but I did. I give all of the glory go to God.”
He was pitching in his sophomore year at Overhills High School when Jaguars head coach Zachary Bingham told his parents that Myatt had potential.
That summer, Myatt’s parents first paid for him to work with Brandon Young and Eric “Moose” Green in Cary at N.C. Biomechanics. He trained there into college, on school breaks and in his free time.
“In my freshman and sophomore years (at Overhills), I didn’t take baseball too serious,” Myatt said. “But then, in my junior year, they were all telling me how good I was.”
When he started at N.C. Biomechanics, his fastest pitch was clocked at 86 mph.
He threw 100 mph in a recent college game.
“Ever since I was in high school, my coaches told me that my pitches were good and to trust my stuff,” he said. “I feel like I took that and — even though my win-loss record wasn’t the best — I still think I competed and threw as good as a could.”
Today, Myatt’s confident in his abilities, saying, ”I know my pitches are good. I have the mentality that I’m coming at you with my best stuff, and if you hit it, you hit it. My job is to get outs.”
The rising sophomore uses his blazing fastball and a cut fastball to sit down batters. He also has a curve ball and change up at his disposal. And, while he’s added velocity to his fastball and movement on his cutter, the trust Myatt has in his pitches remains rooted at Overhills.
“That’s where I started pitching, and that kind of stuck with me — trusting the stuff that I have, and just to compete,” he said.
In his senior year, with scouts watching, he chose to commit to Florence-Darlington Technical College. At the South Carolina college this season, Myatt appeared in 12 games, closing out five and earning three wins. He pitched 26.1 innings, striking out 34 to average 3.76 earned runs.
His mother, Tammy Welch-McNeill, is proud of him, saying, “Tanner is very humble. He came from recreation ball, he came from school ball. We didn’t start pitching lessons until he was in high school. ... He is that kid who came from a very rural area and reached the top.”
Mrs. Welch-McNeill is ever impressed with her son’s athletic ability, but she remains especially proud of his volunteer work.
She said Jay Stock took Tanner and 17 other players to Spain with Purpose-Driven Baseball, a Christian missionary program. He played against players from Barcelona and the Czech Republic. “It was a really good opportunity for him,” she said. “But the highlight, for him, was working with Miracle League kids in college, at Florence-Darlington.”
Ms. McNeill said Stingers’ head baseball coach and Director of Athletics Preston McDonald asked the team to pick volunteer programs that would help them in their field of study.
“Tanner picked Miracle League. He went weekly and taught them how to play,” she said.
Said Myatt, “Every Monday night, I helped kids and adults with physical and mental disabilities. It was a really awesome opportunity that I got to share with my teammates, as well as my coaches.”
Myatt flew out of Raleigh for Florida yesterday morning. While he’s there, he’ll go through a physical health examination, sign his contract and learn which team he’s been assigned to within the Yankees’ organization.
The 337th pick thought he would have been selected earlier, between rounds four and six. “The draft took a turn and teams started picking some other guys, and I got a little discouraged,” Myatt said. His advisor called him and explained the options, saying several teams remained interested, with hopes to pick him on day three. “He called me back a little later and said the Yankees are going to take you with there first pick in Round 11,” Myatt said.
Soon after being selected, Myatt called his father, Danny Myatt of Anderson Creek.
“The first thing I did; I called my dad,” he said, “My dad was listening to (the draft) on his phone while he was working. I called him before it picked up ... and he heard it, congratulated me and told me how proud of me he was of me.”
His father’s not the only family-member full of pride. His grandmother, Nancy Collins Metz, says that Myatt sets his sights on something, he always gets it done. “He’s always had that dream,” she said of her grandson playing in the pros. “He loves sports of any kind.”
Metz has 17 grandkids, and one on the way. All of them call her “To-Mama,” even the 6-foot-7 hurler who was just drafted by the Yankees.
“He came in here at Christmas, and he squatted down to get in the door,” she said. “I was like, ‘Dag! what are they feeding you?’”
“He just shot up in the last few years,” said Metz, “But even at 12, he was tall for his age. At his graduation from high school, they would ask ‘Where’s Tanner?’ and I said, “He’s the tall one.’”
She said a local, former MLB pitcher once saw Myatt pitch at Barbecue Creek Park. Bill Harrington, 90, of Sanford played for the Kansas City Athletics, reportedly striking Mickey Mantle out twice.
“He couldn’t believe how Tanner had it toegther,” Metz said. “(Harrington) said, ‘That young man’s going far.’”