By IAN ABBOTT
ELLENSBURG : Brent Wyatt is living the dream.
Last Friday, Wyatt, an Ellensburg High School grad, was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 26th round of the MLB Draft, thanks to the great success he had with the Bulldogs and the Lewis-Clark State College Warriors.
But Brent’s story begins much earlier than that.
“Ever since I’ve seen baseball being played on TV it’s something I’ve wanted to do,” Brent said. “I’ve always wanted to have people sitting at home, watching me on TV, saying, ˜I want to do that.’ It’s a dream that’s always been there, and it’s never faded.”
Tally, Brent’s mother, awoke at 2 a.m. one morning 22 years ago to a faint sound coming through the walls.
She went out into the hallway to find her husband, Kevin, kneeling in the middle of the dimly lit front room, holding an oversized plastic ball and tossing it to a 1-year-old Brent. Brent swung at the ball (smack!) and ran around the room (patter-patter-patter…).
“What are you guys doing?” Tally asked.
Kevin turned from his kneeling position and shrugged.
“My boy wanted to play baseball,” he said, “so we’re playing baseball.”
Brent has come a long way from being a toddler whacking wiffle balls around the living room. Now he’s on his way to the big stage.
It came about as naturally as anyone could have hoped – from the beginning, it was clear that Brent was a special kid.
A Baseball Life
Brent was born into fortunate circumstances. His family didn’t have a lot of money. He grew up in a small, one-story house near the Kittitas High School baseball fields, within earshot of the crack of the bat.
But Brent’s parents made up for their lack of material possessions with an abundance of love and a fostering of their son’s instant affinity for baseball.
When the living room became too small for Brent, Kevin would pitch to his son in the yard. By the age of 2, Brent was hitting balls over the house, and awestruck neighbors were telling the parents that, someday, Brent was going to be a star.
When the yard became too small, they took the game to the street and ball fields. Whenever Brent wanted to play ball, Kevin obliged.
“He was my first boy,” Kevin said. “I didn’t have anything else to do.”
Kevin challenged his son from the beginning. He threw the ball high and hard, and Brent dove for it unconditionally – even before he started T-ball.
Kevin knew about his son’s dream, but the two didn’t talk very seriously about it for a long time. He didn’t want to get Brent’s hopes up.
When Brent turned 13, however, the time finally came to talk seriously about that dream.
“I told (my dad) I really want to play baseball for a long time,” Brent said. “He told me, â€˜All right, I will help you, and I will push you, and the minute you tell me to stop, I will stop. But, if this is something you want to do, I will help you do it.'”
Even after long games, instead of going home to relax and hang out with friends, Brent would stay behind to take extra batting or fielding practice, playing on into the twilight. The light often gave out before Brent’s will.
Brent had a spectacular career with the Bulldogs, and, after two years at Wenatchee Community College, he signed with one of the best programs in the nation: Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho, where he was a 2008 NAIA Preseason All-America selection and helped the Warriors win two National Championships.
He posted great numbers in his senior year, leading his team in a number of categories while adjusting to playing shortstop every day, but he wasn’t satisfied – he never is. Still, he had gained a reputation as a true gentleman in the league, and he had a number of Major League scouts watching him.
The draft – a shot at a dream – was less than two weeks away.
“We’re all Tigers fans now”
June 6. Brent, now a lean, muscular athlete, receives a phone call in the middle of the afternoon. It’s Ryan Johnson, a scout for the Tigers. Brent runs out into the front yard, exactly where he used to hit balls over the roof 22 years earlier, and, surrounded by his large extended family, he answers the phone.
Johnson tells Brent that he would be Detroit’s next pick.
The excitement didn’t set in until his name finally appeared, but when it did – “DET, Pick 792, Brent Wyatt” – the calls flooded in. Brent and his family were so busy fielding calls, 20 minutes passed before they even got a chance to hug each other.
“It’s been a lot of hard work,” Kevin said. “It’s nice to see him get that reward. We’re all Tigers fans now.”
The Wyatt family still lives in the same little house, but a lot has changed. The family has grown to include seven kids. The front room now has too many toys scattered around to play baseball in it. The backyard is filled with weeds – “a baseball yard,” Kevin calls it – because the family spends too much time at baseball games to care for it.
Etched into a sign in the front room, however, is the perfect rebuttal to the apparent chaos: “We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.”
“I don’t care what anybody else says, he’s going to make it,” said Helen Hernandez – Grandma Hernandez, to the family, and the loudest fan at each of Brent’s games. “That’s what I say about all my kids. I’m going to be 84 my next birthday, and let me tell you, I hope to make it to 100 so I can see all of them make it.”
Brent is moving far away – probably to New York – but he’ll have a difficult time leaving behind the family, friends and coaches who helped raise him into an athlete and a gentleman.
He hopes to make enough money to help move his family into a bigger house, and he wants someday to raise a family of his own.
For Brent, getting drafted is just the first step.
“Until I see myself on ESPN, it’s still going to be a dream,” Brent said. “I’m just inching a little closer to that dream. With this happening, it’s becoming a little more of a reality for me.”