The Sylvan Lake Gulls lineup during the national anthem. (Photo by Ian Gustafson/ Advocate staff)

The Sylvan Lake Gulls lineup during the national anthem. (Photo by Ian Gustafson/ Advocate staff)

Home run specialist Tyler McWillie having successful second season with Gulls

McWillie is second with nine home runs

If there’s anything Sylvan Lake Gulls pitcher Tyler McWillie knows how to do well other than strike out opposing batters, it’s hitting home runs.

The second-year Gulls player is currently second in the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) in home runs with nine just two shy of tying Moose Jaw’s Nate Mensik with 11. McWillie said he is fighting to retain his lead as the league’s leader.

“I think I’m playing pretty well. I struggled at the start of the year and then went on a little hot streak with a bunch of home runs,” he said.

With the home runs also comes RBIs, where he leads all Gulls players and is 10th best in the WCBL.

“I’ve always been able to hit the long ball because I’ve been bigger and lots of my coaches have always preached that. So, I definitely play to it and I think it is a good strength for me to be able to hit the ball that far,” McWille said. “Everyone’s on the team for a different reason and we got a bunch of contact and speed guys at the top of our line up and we got a couple of power guys. That’s why we’re a successful team because we have all those parts.

The Watrous, Sask. native said playing for the Gulls has been a dream come true when you think of the best places to play summer baseball. The fans, plus the work environment is an ideal situation for McWillie.

“If anyone’s been to the stadium you know it’s probably the nicest stadium in Canada,” he added. “I used to play for Okotoks and they get quite a few fans and then I end up coming to play for coach Chatwood and I couldn’t believe the support we get compared to everyone else. It’s always 1,200 people or more and it’s just a blast.”

When McWillie was 15 years old he moved to Okotoks from Saskatchewan to play at the Okotoks Dawgs Academy for their college team to get some experience. He eventually made his way to play for the Okotoks Dawgs in the WCBL before joining the Gulls in their inaugural season last year.

He had two older brothers who also played the game, one who played locally in Saskatchewan, and the other who played at a high level and influenced him to start as a young boy.

“I just fell in love with it every since I was four years old,” he said. “I’m 22 now and going into my senior year of college and what keeps me playing is it’s fun. The most exciting part for me is just meeting all the guys and hanging out with the guys because it’s a different experience every time.”

McWillie is a player with many skills, when he’s not hitting balls over the fence he’s striking batters out. McWillie has 44 strikeouts this year joining his teammates in the pitching staff such as Josh Tucker (91), Ty Boudreau (63), and Ryun Cross (49) as one of the most dangerous pitchers to face in the league.

“Last year with the all-Canadian league we had a good team but we knew we were missing some parts and this year coach Chatwood did a really good job of recruiting the right guys,” he said. “The pitching is really good. I think we have a really strong pitching staff. Our hitting some games if people are out they’ve seen us score 15 runs a game, and get 15-20 hits. It’s really exciting we have all the parts to be a super successful team and when we put it together we score a lot of runs and it’s really fun baseball.”

The Gulls returned from a three-day break on Monday with a massive win in Lethbridge against the Bulls 21-1. They will head to Okotoks to play the Dawgs Tuesday evening before going back to Gulls Stadium to play the Brooks Bombers on Wednesday and Thursday.

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