Tony Evans doesn’t remember the moment – not like he does the night he helped his family win $10,000 – but it was probably a scrimmage or maybe the first game when it happened.
“Man, that’s a fly ball,” he said to himself as he ran to first base.
“Go two, go two,” the first-base coach yelled.
“What?” Evans thought.
This fly ball was no out. It was a double.
“Last year balls that would have been routine fly balls are going over people’s heads,” Evans said. “The stuff I did to improve myself actually really did pay off.”
The bigger payoff for Evans, a four-year starter at shortstop for Tecumseh High School, finally came last week with a decision to play college baseball at Ohio Dominican. That took time, like the time it took for him to physically mature into the kind of athlete Division I programs seek.
Evans, who’ll be 19 on Thursday, is 6 feet 1 and 172 pounds. That’s an inch taller and 20 pounds heavier than a year ago because of more weight lifting and maturity. He is a self-described late bloomer. Obeying a team rule that prohibits beards has been easy.
“It’s the first year you could tell he had lifted weights by looking at him,” said his mom, Lisa.
Baseball scouts – college and pro – like what they can measure. It’s only this year that Evans is measuring up beyond the .512 he batted as a junior. He’s leading off for the first time and batting .444 with 16 extra-base hits, including two home runs, a league-leading 28 RBIs and 24 stolen bases in 23 games.
A profile written by a pro scout, who prefers to remain anonymous, says Evans is under the radar, has excellent baseball instincts and will continue to develop power. He indicated that Evans is one of the best baseball prospects in the Miami Valley.
Evans’ father, Tony Sr., has known this since he moved his son to a coach-pitch league after the first day of T-ball practice. He wishes now that he had taken his son to summer showcases before finally doing so last summer. Players’ abilities are measured at these events. That’s how word spreads about a prospect.
“He’s lacking nothing but experience and hard work,” his father said. “He’s been blessed and he’s got all the physical things he needs. And he’s got a good head on his shoulders.”
Tony Sr. played at Michigan and led the Big Ten in batting. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the sixth round in 1982 and played three seasons in the organization. He admits it is difficult to think of his son struggling to make it to the big leagues.
“Part of me says yes because it’s his dream and I want him to have all of his dreams,” his father said. “Would I recommend him go down that road? I hope that when he goes down that road – because he will to some degree – that he stays true to who he is and his character.”
Tony said his dad hasn’t been pushy. When he told his dad he wanted to excel, both were all in. His father has coached or helped coach his sons, Tony and Christian, a junior for the Arrows, every step of the way.
“Getting advice from someone that made it that far has helped me a lot as a player in general because I know the stuff that I have to do if I want to get that far,” Evans said. “He’s taught me everything that I even know. Without him and God, I don’t know what I would do.”
Pro ball is in the DNA and the dreams, but the next step is college. Evans was like a batter repeatedly getting the take sign. Ohio State, Indiana and some Mid-American Conference took a look but didn’t offer.
Ohio State’s interest has cooled. It’s too late to get academic money from Indiana – he has a 4.1 GPA – and the Mid-American Conference schools have backed off as well.
Eastern Kentucky wanted to see Evans play as did junior college power Iowa Western. Evans heard from Ohio Dominican last week, visited the NCAA Division II campus and committed on Tuesday. He will sign this week.
“I was definitely excited, but more than anything … relieved,” Evans said. “The decision was finally made and I could just go out and have fun playing baseball.”
ODU needs a shortstop next season, is a faith-based school, has a top-notch facility and has a successful longtime coach, Paul Page, who is well-connected to pro scouts. Then there is the aid package that will cover all but about $500 a year in school expenses.
“I definitely think that God wants me to be here,” Evans said. “It’s not just something that popped up. It’s a situation where I don’t think it could have gotten any better. I think it really was a plan by God.”
Tecumseh baseball coach Roger Culbertson expects Evans will succeed.
“He’s got all the tools to be a very successful baseball player,” Culbertson said. “His speed, his quickness, his hands – he’s a complete ballplayer. He’s got the ability to play at the next level and he’s got the ability to go beyond the college level, too.”
Also playing football was mom’s idea in the seventh grade. The deal was to play one year, but Evans liked the sport. He was the Arrows’ starting quarterback the past three years and helped lead them to three straight playoff appearances.
“It’s made me a lot more calm in situations that are kind of crazy,” Evans said. “Being a quarterback has helped me a lot in understanding the role that I have to do and getting it done whether I’m feeling pressure or not.”
The Evans boys were home-schooled for four years. When seventh grade came for Tony and sixth grade for Christian, plans changed. They wanted to return to school to play sports and make more friends.
The family decided on Tecumseh district, but weren’t financially able to make a move.
The boys liked to watch the game show “Deal or No Deal.” They entered the play-at-home online contest. The first time they played, they picked suitcase No. 3 and won. But to really win your name had to be drawn from among all the other winners.
The phone soon rang. Mom thought it was a telemarketer; dad answered. He became a believer when his name flashed on TV.
“My brother and I were going crazy,” Tony said. “Mom said that she’d prayed for a long time to get the money.”
The family soon moved into the Tecumseh Local Schools District.
“They went into the school and acclimated perfectly,” Lisa said. “It just worked out great. The Lord provides.”