Editor’s note: Watchdog reporters invited new Towson coaches to the classroom for group interviews. Here are their stories.
By Kacie Haines
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Matt Tyner knew from elementary school what he wanted to do for work: president of the United States or professional baseball player.
“I taught myself how to add, multiply, subtract and divide by looking at the back of a baseball card and trying to figure out batting averages,” Tyner said. “Five cents a pack buys me a math lesson.”
He accomplished his goal of playing professionally, though not with a Major League Baseball team. And in the latter part of his career he is getting executive experience as head coach of the Towson University baseball team.
Tyner was announced as coach in June, roughly 40 years after he walked onto the University of Miami baseball team. A four-year starter at Miami, Tyner was a key player on three Hurricanes College World Series teams. The outfielder was starstruck during his first World Series appearance but remembers several years later feeling at home on the biggest stage.
“I am hitting fourth,” he said. “I just tied the homerun record for Miami. Now I have driven in an RBI per game and I am slated to go in the top 10 rounds…We walked off that game and we partied like rock stars that night.”
The lessons that Tyner took from starting as a walk-on to being a star of the team are ones he wants to share with his Towson players.
“Don’t give me an excuse, just get it done,” Tyner tells players.
Tyler expected his professional playing career to start in Los Angeles or Detroit — two teams that had scouted him in college. He was surprised when he got the call from the Baltimore Orioles.
“I got the call from the Orioles and I was like, ‘Wow, I didn’t even know they were interested.’ I never so much as filled out a [recruiting] card for them,” Tyner said.
Tyler played for the Orioles affiliate Hagerstown Suns. He started strong but it wasn’t long before injury derailed his dream of playing in the majors.
“We were in a bus accident our first road trip,” Tyner said. “The left front tire blew out, the bus flipped over and the guy on the other side of the bus actually landed on me and it kind of popped my back and I missed like 28 games. I tried playing through it but it didn’t work.”
Tyler suffered other injuries during his four-year minor league career. He spent time rehabbing in Baltimore and learned to love the city.
After many years away from Baltimore, he is back where his minor league career began, but this time he as a coach. He brings with him years of coaching experience at Butler University and the University of Richmond as an assistant, and Bellarmine University as head coach.
“I don’t think it is a bad thing that I played at the University of Miami, that I played at four different stops on my minor league career,” Tyner said. “I don’t think it is a bad thing that I coached at four different universities. I don’t think it is a bad thing that I got back into coaching at 48 years old. You put it all in that melting pot and that’s what you get – a finished product with a lot of experience.”
By Jordan Cope
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
Matt Tyner, a four-year starter at the University of Miami, figured he’d start his professional baseball career in the Detroit Tigers or Los Angeles Dodgers farm system. Those two storied franchises had shown the most interest in Tyner leading up to the 1980 Major League Baseball draft.
Instead, the call came from the Baltimore Orioles. He had never talked to a scout from the team. Tyner didn’t think he was on the Orioles’ radar. But soon, the ninth-round draft pick was sent to play for a Baltimore affiliate.
Tyner spent three injury-plagued seasons in the Orioles system, playing for the Hagerstown Suns and rehabbing in Baltimore when he wasn’t on the field. During his time in Charm City, he made friends, established connections and was a frequent visitor to the Inner Harbor.
Thirty-five years later, Tyner is back where his professional baseball career started. This time, he is taking over a struggling Towson University baseball program run by Mike Gottlieb for the past 30 years.
“I found Baltimore to be very appealing to me at [the time of my injury],” Tyner said. “To come full circle, so now I get an opportunity to come back [to Baltimore] and coach at Towson, it’s kind of a neat way to close the circle.”
In his brief professional career, Tyner was known for his ability to produce at the plate. In 1981, he led the Orioles organization with 33 home runs and batted .301. He also registered 116 hits and knocked in 77 runs that year.
After his professional career, Tyner tried his hand at coaching college baseball. He had two stints as an assistant coach at Butler University and spent two years as the head coach at Bellarmine University. At Bellarmine, Tyner accumulated 60 victories and took the team to the Great Lakes Valley Conference Championship in his second season.
At Richmond, Tyner served as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator under the direction of Tracy Woodson. The Spiders saw success with Tyner on their coaching staff. In 2016, the team ranked nationally in batting average, doubles and slugging percentage.
Last season, Richmond continued to see production at the plate. In the A-10, the team ranked in the top five in batting average, hits and doubles.
“I can blend my Butler, my Bellarmine and my Richmond experience and bring that to Towson,” Tyner said. “Richmond showed me the good, maybe the other [schools] showed me the bad and the ugly. Here at Towson, we are going to see if we can move [the program] a little bit forward.”
Tyner has nowhere to take Towson’s program but “a little bit forward.” Over the last four seasons under the leadership of Gottlieb, the team failed to post a winning record. Tyner said he wants to change the culture of the team, a process that will take time.
“On my hourly time sheet, it says minor sport,” Tyner said. “I don’t treat [coaching college baseball], or anything else that I do as a minor anything.”
Although he is not back in the uniform of the team that drafted him, Tyner is glad to be back in the city where his professional baseball career started, and eager to get his feet wet this spring. He hopes his playing and coaching stops along the way give him an advantage.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing that I played at the University of Miami, that I played at four different stops in my minor league career, that I coached at four different universities, that I got back into coaching at 48 years old, because I got a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” he said. “You put it all in that melting pot and that’s what you get – a finished product with a lot of experience.”