A little more than 24 hours after making his Major League debut, the moment still was sinking in for Tyler O’Neill as he stood in front of his locker in the St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse.
“I’ve been working my whole life to get to this point,” beamed O’Neill. “It was a lot to take in at the time, just more excitement and anticipation than anything. I’m just happy to be here and do my job.”
The 22-year old outfielder was officially recalled by the team before yesterday’s game in Chicago and struck out against Jon Lester in his only at-bat.
Due to the long flight from Vancouver, British Columbia for what was originally to be a day game on Wednesday, his family was unable to be there for that first MLB moment. But his parents arrived in St. Louis yesterday and are in attendance at Busch Stadium tonight.
“It still gives me chills just thinking about it, man,” continued O’Neill. “Again, like I just worked my whole life, everyday, just to better myself to get here. I’m finally here. Now the job is to stay here and obviously to produce on the field. That’s my goal and that’s what I’m going to do.”
In 12 games with Memphis (AAA), O’Neill was hitting .388 with 6 home runs and 18 RBIs.
DEDICATION, NOT SHORTCUTS
Tyler O’Neill doesn’t like to talk about the amount of the weight he moves when training, but he’s happy to share his favorite movement.
“I like to do deadlifts a lot,” he shared back in Spring Training. “For me, it’s a very safe exercise as long as your form’s down. Bench press you can drop it on yourself, squatting your knees could buckle or something could wrong. Deadlifts, if you can’t get it up you just drop it so for me, that’s my favorite one. Plus, it hits major muscle groups–your legs, your lower back, and really gives you some base strength.”
The son of Terry O’Neill, who won the title of Mr. Canada for body building in 1975, Tyler started training in earnest early in high school.
“I was still learning,” he recalled. “My dad kind of paved the way for me. Taught me how to diet myself, how to mentally challenge myself. Everybody thinks working out is so physical. No. It’s really comes down to your mental fortitude and how far you want to push yourself and the results show.”
Flexibility training was incorporated in 11th grade as O’Neill catered his workouts towards baseball.
And as he trained, the results indeed began to show. Muscle was added. Strength. O’Neill now stands in at a chiseled 5’10, 210lbs with enough power to help him hit 31 home runs last season.
But with the success there are also the back-handed compliments of doubt. Those who look at muscle and assume there must have been shortcuts taken.
“Of course,” said O’Neill. “I’ve been ridiculed–again, like when I was in high school. Popping PEDs, doing this, doing that, and people always say they’re cheating. Everybody wants to make an excuse for a reason why they can’t do it, but what it comes down to is them not having the mental strength to push themselves to the next level. Unfortunately, they’ll never understand that.”
Major League Baseball has random drug testing, which includes the drawing of blood to test for human growth hormone. Asking some Cardinals players who spent time in the minors last year, most shared they were tested at least once during last season. By his recollection, O’Neill was tested 3 or 4 times–or basically once a month. That was more than the others. Coincidence? Maybe not. But with nothing to hide, Tyler doesn’t care and keeps his focus on succeeding.
“First impressions going to be ‘he’s to big to play this sport, he doesn’t have the mobility.’ said O’Neill. “Well again, just like working out, I take pride in my mobility, staying on the field, and staying healthy and being able to move the way I do. I’m going to show you guys what I can do. Everybody will realize it at some point or another.”
photo credit: Brian Stull/STLBaseballWeekly.com