Enthusiasm, Joy Of Play Fuels WVU’s Tyler Doanes
MORGANTOWN, W.Va — Tyler Doanes will be shifting from the left side of the infield to the right for his sophomore season at West Virginia, and he’ll be doing it with a smile.
“Right now I have moved to second base, but I’ll play anywhere Coach (Randy) Mazey and the team needs me,” Doanes said as the Mountaineers prepared for a season opening season this weekend in Georgia.
The move across the diamond is noteworthy, but nothing outshines Doanes’ infectious grin and simple joy of playing. That’s the first thing you notice, and the last impression he leaves. No matter where you see him, a smile is almost certain to follow.
“I played this game when I was three. Now I get the chance to come to a program like this, and I get to play with all my brothers. I always tried to play like a little kid and have fun,” the Fayetteville, Georgia, native said.
That attitude is one that meshes well with Mazey’s philosophy, which is built on the twin concepts of aggressiveness and enjoyment. It was tested early during his freshman year at WVU, with a 1-14 start at the plate, but he kept the faith and a positive outlook.
“The start of the season was kind of rough for me, but Coach Mazey and the team really had my back,” Doanes said appreciatively. “They kept telling me to keep going. It ended up being a great season, and I have to thank them for it.”
Soon, Doanes began striping the ball, and moved into a starting position at third base. Following that start, he had multi-hit games in nine of his next 17 appearances, and finished the season with a .317 batting average. Ten of his 32 hits were for extra bases, including a team-best four triples.
“I think it was a comfort thing,” Doanes said of his improvement. “Coach (Steve) Sabins told me to just relax, and that really helped me out.”
Moving to a new position is a new challenge, however, and Doanes will have a lot more on his plate in 2019. West Virginia’s infield defense was shaky a year ago, with the four primary starters accounting for 43 errors. That, in turn, put more pressure on the pitching staff, and was one big reason the Mountaineers missed out on a postseason bid.
This year, Doanes, along with freshman shortstop Tevin Tucker, hope to complete an up-the-middle defensive backbone that is anchored front and back by catcher Ivan Gonzalez and center fielder Brandon White.
“Defense, defense,” Doanes intoned of his emphasis for the preseason. “We have focused on just playing catch, securing the ball, not making errors. We finished close to last in the Big 12 last year (in defense) so we want to make a big comeback there.”
Mazey noted that every error in the field typically adds ten pitches to the workload of whoever is on the mound, so in addition to preventing scoring opportunities for the opponent, good defensive work can also keep effective hurlers on the mound. Doanes knows that building synergy with Tucker is important in making sure the middle infield runs smoothly, but doesn’t feel any pressure in making that happen.
“Learning the new system and signs,” he said of the biggest hurdle of the switch. “There is a lot more responsibility (at second). I need to make sure I work well with the other guys in the infield. But it’s the opportunity that we have to come out and play baseball. I don’t think there’s ever pressure in that. We get to come out here and have fun.”