Sometimes it is funny how life works out. At least that’s how it was for right-handed pitcher, Ryan Tepera. when he found out he was drafted in the 19th round of the 2009 draft as the Texas native was travelling to British Columbia when he found out he was selected by Canada’s only team.
“Getting drafted was an unusual experience for me compared to most other players, I’m sure,” Tepera said. “After my junior year at Sam Houston State, I wasn’t sure if I was going to get drafted after a couple injuries and some struggles I had during the year.”
“I was actually on my way to play summer ball in Kelowna, British Columbia the day of the draft. I was in the middle of, I believe Kansas, when I received a call from the Blue Jays! Not knowing for sure if I would be drafted, I was very excited about receiving that call. It was always a dream of mine since I was a little kid to get drafted by a MLB team!”
Tepera wasted no time proving to the Blue Jays why he was selected, pitching a no-hitter in his second career start with the Blue Jays Gulf Coast League team. He finished the season playing in 11 games, recording a 1.71 ERA, while allowing seven earned runs on 19 hits and four walks while striking out 42. In over 36 innings pitched, the young Texan maintained a WHIP of 0.627.
“I was a little shocked and surprised of my first professional games, as I think most players are when you come from college ball to the Gulf Coast League in Florida. It sure wasn’t what I had expected.
“Throwing a no hitter meant a lot to me. Every pitcher that starts a game plans to not give up any hits at all. So I feel very fortunate to accomplish this in my first year, and at the same time be able to get my name out there and prove to the Blue Jays why they drafted me,” he said.
His 2009 performance easily earned him a promotion to the Lansing Lugnuts in 2010, where he started in 22 of his 24 games, recording a 9-6 record with a 3.98 ERA. Tepera admitted that this season was one that truly taught him how to be a professional ball player. “Starting my first full season in Lansing, Michigan was the biggest learning point in my career. Sal Fasano was my first professional manager and I will never forget him and the experiences we had. Sal taught me a lot about baseball and life.”
In 2011, Tepera again earned a promotion, this time joining the pitching rotation of the Dunedin Blue Jays, where he went 11-6 with a 4.43 ERA in 146.1 innings pitched, recording over 93 strikeouts. Discussing the immediate differences he found between Lansing (Midwest League – A) and Dunedin (Florida State League – High A), Tepera discussed that the players in high-A appear to be more polished and at a slightly higher calibre. “In the Florida State League, the hitters were more disciplined and were able to hit even well located fastballs. So I had to develop my off speed pitches.”
Progression through the system occurred again in 2012, when Tepera joined the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, recording a 2-1 record with a 3.96 ERA in 25 innings pitched. Again, Tepera spoke about the transition he witnessed firsthand at the new level. “Going to New Hampshire was a great honor because I know some players never even get the chance to play double-A baseball. One thing I noticed was that all the way through the lineup, you would find a good hitter. Being in AA, most players are the prospects are on their way to the majors. I definitely enjoyed it.”
After the 2012 season, the Blue Jays were again eager to see how far they could push the young Texan and decided to send him to the Arizona Fall League this past off-season. In the AFL, Tepera made six starts, recording a 1-2 record with a 6.75 ERA. “Playing in the Arizona Fall League was another great honor. There are so many good players that you get to see how you stack up against the competition. I enjoyed my time in Scottsdale quite a bit. One thing I learned very quick is that the ball flies and if you make a mistake it gets hit very hard.”
Despite his success amongst the many levels of the Blue Jays’ organization, Tepera admitted that he felt his most successful day in his career happened when he was in high school. “My best day in baseball would probably be when I threw a no-hitter against our rival in high school and was named MVP of the district,” he said.
Interestingly enough, Tepera’s worst game that he can remember happened while he was attending Sam Houston State, “One game that I try to forget would be when I started against University of Texas in the regional tournament in college. I ended up giving up back to back homeruns in the first inning!”
Tepera states he has been able to handle each high and low of his career thanks to the constant support of his friends and family, specifically he wanted to thank his father for his constant support throughout his entire career. “My dad taught me everything about baseball from just throwing and playing catch to hitting a baseball.”
But the young right-hander can do much more than just throwing and playing catch. In fact, Tepera indicated that his best skill is his ability to field his position. He says his defense abilities stem from the fact that he grew up playing shortstop. “I take pride in fielding ground balls,” he said. “Growing up playing shortstop gave me the ability to be involved in almost every play on the field.”
Tepera also discussed his transition from a position player to a pitcher in college: “After pitching all of my senior year of high school, I then made the transition to stick with just pitching my freshman year of college. I felt I had a better chance to make a career out of pitching because at times I struggled with hitting. Since the transition, I have enjoyed every opportunity that pitching has granted me and I look forward to many more!”
Expect Ryan Tepera to find success and receive many more pitching opportunities in 2013.