HAMMOND -- The whirlwind process of becoming a professional baseball player has begun for former Walker High standout Bryce Tassin.
Tassin, who was recently selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 31st round of the Major League Baseball Draft out of Southeastern Louisiana, arrived at the Tigers’ training facility in Lakeland, Fla., on Thursday and said he will sign a professional contract Friday.
“Like every kid, I always had the dream of playing in the big leagues,” Tassin said Thursday while in Florida. “It’s kind of surreal to know that I’m actually a few levels away from reaching that goal. I’ve always been determined to work hard to ultimately be in the situation I’m in now. I think once I start playing and going through practice and stuff, I think that’s where it’s going to really hit me.
“It’s an honor to be associated with all the guys who have come through the program at Southeastern, and Coach (Matt) Riser has done a magnificent job coaching over there,” Tassin continued. “I can’t thank him enough for the opportunity to play there, and I really enjoyed my time at Southeastern.”
Tassin and infielder Cody Grosse (30th round, Seattle Mariners) were SLU’s draftees, giving the Lions 17 drafted players during Riser’s six-year tenure.
“Bryce did a fantastic job for us,” Riser said. “From coming (in as) kind of a gangly freshman who had to redshirt his first year, to the dominant force that he was in our staff for three years after that, I think it’s definitely well-deserved, and very exciting time for him. I’m excited for him to get that professional career going.”
Tassin, who graduated with a degree in accounting in May, said he had conversations with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Colorado Rockies and was a bit surprised when the Tigers picked him.
“I was expecting to go a little sooner, honestly,” Tassin said. “I didn’t talk to the Tigers at all. They kind of just came out of nowhere, but we’re very fortunate they did call me when they did, because I was honestly getting kind of nervous.”
Tassin said he entertained coming back to Southeastern, but the prospect of becoming a professional baseball player was too much to pass up.
“When they drafted me, I was like, ‘Man, this is a good chance for me,’ so I talked with my family, and I felt like it was time for me to take it,” he said.
With the Lions, Tassin went 5-2 with a 3.89 ERA in 27 appearances, working in middle relief this past season. That came after a redshirt sophomore season in which he went 2-1 with six saves in 17 appearances.
“Honestly, it wasn’t that big of a transition,” Tassin said of moving from a closing role to middle relief. “I think the only transition is being able to go longer and having to work my way up – just being able to build my stamina up to go multiple innings at a time rather than just coming into the ninth and closing out a ballgame.”
Tassin logged a career-high 44 innings this past season, striking out 42 while giving up 42 hits and said picking the brain of former Lion pitcher Josh Green, who went from closer to starter during his career, helped him through the process.
“I started in high school and I was used to it, but then going to the pen, I kind of got used to my innings getting shorter,” Tassin said. “I just had to build that focus on each individual pitch back up.”
Tassin started his redshirt junior season strong but hit a rough patch in the middle season, with the toughest outing coming in a 9-8 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette in which he gave up four hits, five runs and two walks in 1.2 innings.
He bounced back by the time the Lions advanced to the Southland Conference Tournament, giving up a hit and a walk in 2.1 innings in the Lions’ 5-0 loss to Stephen F. Austin to open the tournament. Tassin got the win in the Lions’ 9-3 victory over Central Arkansas, giving up two hits, a walk and striking out two in three innings.
“I don’t think it was anything specific,” Tassin said of the rough spot. “I don’t really know, honestly. I was just a little elevated in the zone, and that kind of got me hit a little bit. Once I got back down, I was fine. I was probably executing my fastball a little better, and I was able to mix in my offspeed a little more.”
Riser said a big part of Tassin’s maturation process took place last summer when he earned Perfect Game/Rawlings Summer Collegiate All-American honors after picking up 10 saves helping the Mat-Su Miners win the Alaska Baseball League title.
“He did a good job of staying committed to it,” he said. “He went out this past summer to Alaska and continued to build on his repertoire and his stamina, and he was able to maintain his stuff. If you look at his last outing in the conference tournament, I think he went four or five innings for us, and we knew we could do that.”
Riser said he expects Tassin to settle in as a reliever in professional baseball as well.
“I think that will be his forte is be able to go out and blow it out for one inning and show them the premium velocity with a premium secondary pitch with that split-finger he’s got,” Riser said. “If he continues to emerge his cutter, his breaking ball, maybe they end up making (him) a little bit longer reliever, but just knowing Bryce, I know he’ll go work hard.”
Tassin said he doesn’t know what minor league team he’ll play for or what role he’ll fill with that team, but at this point, it doesn’t matter.
“I’m just happy to be here,” he said. “I’m just ready to get started.”