Baseball on hold for Reds prospect who could be in Dayton next summer

Tyler Callihan
Tyler Callihan

Less than a month into his first professional Spring Training, 19-year-old second baseman Tyler Callihan learned where he would spend most of the summer months, and it wasn’t going to be Dayton.

He was going to turn 20 in June at his home, in Jacksonville, Fla., although he didn’t know how long that would last. He did suspect his chance to make the team at low Class A Dayton would be on hold for at least a year.

“Obviously, I was pretty bummed out,” said Callahan in a recent telephone call. “I was upset on the plane ride home, but the Reds did the right thing. They treated us perfectly. This might be a good offseason to strengthen everything and get ready for next season.”

Sports were shut down in early March because of the coronavirus, just as major league baseball franchises were getting ready to assemble their rosters and dispatch prospects and others to minor league teams.

At the same time, major league baseball informed the minors it intended to trim minor league teams by 40 or more for the year 2021, which made this summer important to those players who weren’t considered prospects and needed a few months with a team in organized baseball to stay active.

Callihan did not fall into that last group, even though he was also being considered as a third baseman and had to learn the position better. Chosen in the third round of the 2019 free agent entry draft and showered with nearly $1.5 million in signing money because he had also signed to play collegiately at South Carolina, Callihan progressed at rookie level Greeneville Tenn., and Billings last summer. He hit a combined six homers in 57 games, hitting well over .300 after a rocky first month.

He liked both places, finding each, “amazing,” but also heard players in the Reds minor league camp extolling the virtues of Dayton.

The Reds had not told Callihan where he would play this year, but Class A Dayton was the next step toward the majors following Greeneville and Billings. The Reds’ No. 1 pick in 2019 was pitcher Nick Lodolo, who did start two games with the Dragons before being shut down for the season to reduce stress on his arm. Second round draft pick Rece Hinds, a shortstop, was injured and didn’t play in Dayton, although he might next season.

Callihan wouldn’t mind being in Dayton, either.

“I had a friend in that league (Nolan Gorman) at Peoria (Cardinals),” Callihan said. “He said every time they went over there (to Dayton), it was intense. The stands were always filled, even on a Wednesday night.”

Callihan thought about all of that on his plane ride home from Arizona when the virus hit. He determined to do the best he could under the circumstances. Vice-president of player development Shawn Pender said minor league coaches were given lists of players they had to call daily, keeping them motivated, offering advice on workouts as best they could.

Callihan said he has been working out daily with friends, and using a home batting cage to help his hitting. On Monday will drive down the coast to a training facility in Boca Raton, Fla., where he will work out with a few other prospects.

After that, he will look forward to his next Spring Training, if it comes.

“This is the longest I’ve gone without playing baseball,” Callihan said. “I don’t know if anyone knows what’s going to happen.”