GRAY — Tyler Roberts had his patience tested June 10.
The Jones County catcher waited through nine rounds of the Major League Baseball draft to hear his name called by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 10th round. The recent graduate thought he could be drafted as early as the third round, so the wait wore on him.
But Roberts, the Telegraph’s All-Middle Georgia GHSA baseball player of the year for the second straight year, was accustomed to being patient.
Roberts started getting walked regularly as a sophomore, and the trend continued through the past two years. He walked nearly a third of the time he stepped to the plate this season. It meant that he had to focus on driving that one good pitch he might see in a game.
“A lot of games, I knew I was going to get one at bat where I’d see good pitches,” Roberts said. “It was usually the first at bat, and then I would get walked two or three times.”
But as the season went on, Roberts got more opportunities as Zack Blount developed into a dangerous clean-up hitter.
“It was a big stress relief,” Roberts said. “Zach started making people pay for walking me. I still got walked, but not as much as before.”
Roberts finished the season hitting .584 with six doubles, 13 home runs, 51 RBI and 37 walks. Roberts led Middle Georgia in batting average, home runs and RBI.
“It’s almost like watching Barry Bonds,” Jones County head coach Barry Veal said. “You have all the walks, and then when he sees a pitch and hits a single up the middle, you think, ‘That’s it?’ It just shows you what everyone expects to see out of him.”
Jones County fans grew accustomed to watching Roberts hitting tape-measure blasts around the railroad tracks that sit more than 400 feet behind centerfield. He hit 46 home runs in his prep career, standing alongside Justin Tyler and Rondell White as one of the greatest hitters in school history.
“I’ve been coaching high school baseball for 20 years, and this is by far the best offensive season I’ve ever seen,” Veal said. “He is such a great hitter and never gets frustrated. He stays patient and produces.”
Roberts also stood out defensively.
Veal said Roberts only yielded 10 stolen bases during the past two years. He averaged about one pickoff at first base per game and picked up multiple runners at second base.