Brent Wyatt
Ellensburg High School alumnus Brent Wyatt takes the field for the Flying Tigers of Lakeland, Fla., a minor-league affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. (Tom Hagert)

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ELLENSBURG - As a teenager playing baseball for Ellensburg High School, Brent Wyatt had a dream - to someday become a professional ball player.

Unlike the millions of other boys with the same dream, Wyatt is living his.

For the dream to come true it required exceptional talent, extreme commitment to improvement and a really good road atlas.

Since graduating from EHS in 2003, Wyatt has ventured to Lewiston, Idaho, to summers in Alaska, to Oneonta, N.Y., to Grand Rapids, Mich., to Lakeland, Fla. and Erie, Pa.

The last four stops have been with minor league affiliates of the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers drafted Wyatt in the 26th round in 2008. Wyatt started last season in High A Lakeland but by August had been promoted to AA Erie. Wyatt was drafted by Detroit after a successful college career at NAIA powerhouse Lewis-Clark State.

"Erie is where I'm slated to go this year," Wyatt said. "I'll be totally happy starting the year in double A."

In Daily Record articles about him while he was in high school, Wyatt talked about his goal to play Major League Baseball.

"My whole life, I've always known I wanted to play professional baseball," Wyatt said. "I've held on to that dream."

His high school coach, Jim Klampher, could see his potential.

"In high school it looked like everything Brent did was effortless because he was so talented," Klampher said.

Klampher said the thing that stood out about Wyatt was his consistency.

"He wasn't flashy," Klampher said.

Wyatt will head to Florida in February in preparation for minor league camp, which opens in early March.

Numbers game

Each year about 1,500 ballplayers are drafted by Major League Baseball teams. There are 30 MLB teams that carry 25 on the active roster (those with the big league club) and 40 on the major league roster (those under contract to the big league club). The draft numbers are augmented each year by international free agent signings.

Every minor league player aims first for one the 1,200 major league roster spots. A spot on the roster increases the likelihood of being called up to the the big-league team.

Every year is critical - a large number of players do not make it past the initial short-season rookie league step - but 2011 is potentially a pivotal year in Wyatt's path to a big-league team.

"This is my Rule 5 year," Wyatt said.

In the Rule 5 year, every player not on the 40-man roster of their parent team is available to be drafted by another team. The team that drafts the player must keep him on the active (25-man) roster the entire season or offer him back to the team from which the player originated.

For Wyatt, this could mean the Tigers place him on the 40-man roster, increasing his chances of someday playing in Detroit, or another team drafts him and he has a shot at a yearlong spot on the big-league roster. If he is not protected by the Tigers, it could be an indication of the club's evaluation of his big-league potential. If other teams pass on him, that would be another indication.

"Ultimately I want to play well enough for the Tigers to place me on their 40-man roster," Wyatt said.

The case for Wyatt

Wyatt was a shortstop in high school. He's expanded his repertoire (and glove collection) since then.

"The Tigers like that I'm versatile," Wyatt said. "I'm comfortable in the infield, but I'm also comfortable in the outfield positions. Every big league club needs a guy who can play multiple positions."

In the 2010 season between Lakeland and Erie, Wyatt played every outfield position and every infield position, with the exception of shortstop. He even pitched one inning. In Lakeland he saw most of his action in left field. In Erie he logged the most playing time at second base.

While Wyatt earned a promotion in 2010, it was a year in which he struggled at times.

"I struggled for about a month and a half," Wyatt said. "I just kept struggling, fighting, trying to figure it out. When August came around I started doing really well again."

In Erie, Wyatt went hitless in his first few games.

"I was hitting the ball well, I just couldn't get anything to fall," Wyatt said.

Suddenly the balls where not just falling, they were falling on the other side of the outfield fences. Over a nine-game stretch Wyatt went 13 for 32 (.406 average) with two home runs, including one to win a game.

At 5-foot 10 inches tall and 185 pounds, Wyatt is not a power hitter, but he has driven in more than 50 runs each of the past two years. He is also a switchhitter.

"I'm more of a gap-to-gap hitter," Wyatt said.

Career goal

Wyatt said the key for him is to continue to progress through the minor league system.

"As long as a feel like I have a future playing baseball, I'll continue doing this," Wyatt said.

He would like to earn enough money playing ball to help get started in his post-baseball life.

"I'd like to put my family in the position that I start my life doing something else," Wyatt said.

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