Tyler Slaton knows he isn’t the biggest or most athletic ballplayer out there. This is true today, and it was true four years ago when he attended North Forsyth. But that’s hardly ever slowed him down.
When he was a Raider, Slaton excelled in baseball and football, and in the process learned how to outperform those with more size and God-given talent. North baseball coach Jim Cahill and former head football coach Jared Zito, among others, helped instill the kind of mindset a 5-foot-8 kid needs to thrive on the field.
That mindset has propelled Slaton to some impressive achievements. He broke the all-time rushing record for North football, which has yet to be topped. Additionally, his success on the baseball team earned him a scholarship from Clemson, where he currently plays outfield and bats first in the order.
"They were a really big help for me," Slaton said of North’s coaches. "They taught me to work hard, to not take things for granted. You never know what’s going to happen the next day, and you’re never guaranteed a next day. You have to take what you get and go with it."
All that guidance has led Slaton to what will undoubtedly be the most crucial season of his career. Now a rising senior, he has a chance to establish himself as one of the ACC’s premier talents—and should he do so, Major League organizations could take notice.
It’s hard to tell if Slaton will be taken in the 2015 MLB Draft—at least for now, with an entire season of NCAA baseball ahead of him—but he recognizes that his dream is within reach.
"I think my chances are good," Slaton said. "There are a lot of rounds in the draft, and I feel like I can go in one of those rounds. Like everyone else, I feel like I have a shot."
A future in pro baseball is feasible for Slaton thanks a strong showing last year, when he batted .274 with a .391 on-base percentage in 61 games.
He also cut down his strikeouts, began walking more often and stole 11 bases. He developed some power, too, hitting nine doubles, three triples and three home runs.
"All in all I thought it was a pretty good season," he said. "I just tried to do my role as a leadoff guy and get on base."
Perhaps Slaton’s biggest moment at the NCAA level came on March 19 against Georgia Southern. Down 4-3 late in the contest, Slaton came to the plate with a runner on first and two outs. He promptly hit a slider over the fence, giving Clemson a 5-4 lead it would not relinquish.
Moments like this force scouts to take notice. Often times, that’s all it takes.
"I feel like I’ve done some good things that I can be proud of," Slaton said. "I always have high expectations for myself. Next year the expectations are a little higher because it’s my last one [at Clemson].
"I’m looking to improve in any way I can to help the team win."