JUPITER, Fla.—Tyler Halas is a contributor.
In the middle infield, on the corners, in the outfield, or on the mound, he will be a factor for his team.
“I like doing everything,” the 17-year-old said. “When I was on the 14U national team I was a utility guy. I was picked to play second base, but then they asked me to play in the outfield so I said yes to that. I played outfield, played third base down in Venezuela too, and I pitched. I did it all.”
Currently at USA Baseball’s 17U National Team East Championships in Jupiter and looking to be a factor for the National Team Identification Series, Halas got his first chance at wearing the Team USA jersey three years ago at the 2011 COPABE Pan Am 14U Championships in San Felipe, Venezuela.
“It felt great,” Halas said. “Doing it at 14 years old, and just being selected felt amazing. I can’t even think of words to use to describe it. It was so much fun . . . It would mean a lot and it would be a great time to do it again. I’m hoping I can do it again, going through this tournament playing and just hoping I get selected.”
The experience Halas gained at the Pan Am event was invaluable, not to mention the fact that he earned a gold medal. Team USA outscored its opponents 92-27 in the tournament and took out the home team in the final.
“It was crazy,” the Chicago native said. “Seeing those kids and what they have to go through down there in Venezuela was crazy. It wasn’t that great of a place, and the kids were really good, but it was different . . . Venezuela was the best competition definitely, because they were the hometown team and there were a lot of people there for them.
“We played them twice and had great games, once in pool play and once in the championship game (and) it was an adrenaline rush. I was a little scared but I started to calm down later and made plays, got hits. I learned to just be myself on the field and not feel pressure. I was able to stay calm and just focus.”
That experience has helped Halas on the field for his high school team at St. Rita High in Chicago and with his travel ball team, Team Demarini Hayes. Tyler’s father Scott Halas stepped in to coach Team Demarini Hayes in Jupiter, temporarily taking over for regular head coach and 14-year veteran big leaguer Charlie Hayes, who stepped away to attend Old-Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium.
Halas—whose family is not related to the notable Chicago family of the same name—said even he isn’t sure where his son fits best on the diamond.
“That’s a tough one,” Scott said. “He was picked to play second base for USA and then he wound up playing right field. He plays third base for his high school, and Tennessee targeted him as a middle infield guy or an outfield player. His bat is really going to dictate how much he plays there but deep down inside his best position may be pitcher.
“He works out with R.C. Lichtenstein (pitching coach for Double-A Montgomery in the Rays system). Tyler has been working with him since he was 5 years old. He tries to keep his pitching quiet and not let too many people know he does that, but I think his bat will carry him through.”
Tyler Halas said he believes he can make an impact no matter where he is listed on the lineup.
“I contribute most in the middle infield, but I also feel like I contribute on the mound too because I can pound the zone, throw strikes and help out the team there,” he said. “Second base is where I need to do the most work, but I have to know how to play every position: third, short, second.”
As a righthander he is expected to take on a major role as a senior for St. Rita next season after going 6-0 last year, with the team sending several top seniors to college. He is also a starting infielder, usually at second or third base, and always bats in the heart of the order for the Mustangs.
“I don’t want to say there’s a lot of pressure on me, and I’m just going to go out there and play my game like I always do,” Halas said. “Everybody is watching the whole team and I’m not going to feel like everybody’s watching me.
“We are losing a lot of big guys, with Mike Costanzo going to Austin Peay and Jake Shepski going to Notre Dame, but we have a lot of captains on the team. It’s not just going to be me . . . but I’m very proud (to be considered a leader of the team). I feel really honored for that.”
Halas already has plans for after high school, having committed to Tennessee as a sophomore.
“They’ve got great facilities there and that’s what I like,” Halas said. “I like the workout program and everything, the field is beautiful, I love the coaches, the coaches are really nice, and I’m just looking forward to going over there and playing.”
Halas’ older brother Nathan plays for Texas A&M International and is spending his summer with the Woodlands Strykers in the Texas Collegiate League. Scott Halas said Tyler has always followed Nathan’s lead and is driven to accomplish even more.
“I see Tyler improving every day,” Scott Halas said. “He’s a hard-working kid. He takes no time off from this sport and it is something that he really wants to do. Tyler started at a very early age. He was throwing and hitting the ball at 3, always chasing after his brother and following in his brother’s footsteps.
“Sometimes as a parent it doesn’t seem like they’re getting better, but I see the improvement in him day in and day out, his passion for the game and his knowledge for the game takes him to a whole different level.”