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story.lead_photo.caption Submitted photo Prairie Grove 2014 graduate Ty Tice's name is shown on the scoreboard during the seventh inning of a spring training game between the visiting Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees' George M. Steinbrenner Field at Tampa, Fla. Jorge Saez was among four batters Tice faced while pitching two-thirds of an inning on Saturday, March 24, 2018.

PRAIRIE GROVE -- An April 30, 2018, post on futurebluejays.com describes Prairie Grove 2014 graduate Ty Tice as an undersized reliever, at 5-9, 170 pounds.

Maybe, they should have said, "An under-rated achiever," when sizing up the second-year minor leaguer.

Major League Baseball's Toronto Blue Jays saw potential signing Tice as a right-handed pitcher on June 19, 2017, after selecting him in the 16th round of the 2o17 MLB draft. Two days later he was assigned to the Bluefield, W.Va., Blue Jays and played last season as a rookie in the Appalachian League where he was selected as a post-season All-Star.

On March 18, 2018, Tice was assigned to the parent club in Toronto, where he made his Major League debut in spring training for the Blue Jays against the Yankees on Saturday, March 24, 2018, at Tampa, Fla.

Inserted in the seventh inning, Tice faced 4 batters when the Toronto Blue Jays played the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field with 9,924 fans in attendance, including his parents, Jason and Tracy Tice, of Prairie Grove; younger brother Cole Tice; and girlfriend Katelyn Harryman, of Rogers.

The game took nearly three hours (2:54) to complete before the Yankees won 13-6. Tice pitched two-thirds of an inning, allowing no runs with 1 strike-out, 1 fly-out, and 1 base-on-balls in a 9-pitch debut.

"I was excited there were a lot of fans," Tice said in a Monday telephone interview.

He had just watched a home run hit when he was sent out onto the mound with one out. After issuing a walk and hitting a batter, Tice settled in and got the next two batters out. He induced a fly-ball that was caught for the second out, then steadied himself.

Asked if the crowd cheered the out, Tice admitted he zones in while pitching.

"I don't remember a thing, I was just ready to get back up there and get the next out," Tice said. "I tend to do that. I just focus in on my pitching. I've just always been that way."

After two weeks, Tice was assigned to the Lansing, Mich., Lugnuts on April 2, 2018. His arrival, combined with relievers: Orlando Pascual, Brody Rodning, and Matt Shannon, excited fans aware of a 2017 Lansing weakness in the bullpen.

The April 30, 2018, post on futurebluejays.com stated, "Tice has a live arm, and has been lights out as a closer since being drafted in the 16th round last year (17 Saves in as many chances). Tice brings 95-96 heat, and an 89 (m.p.h.) slider that has late break and much bite to it. He slots in below some of the more prominent bullpen arms ahead of him in the system, but Tice could rise quickly."

That prophecy was fufilled 10 days later on May 10, 2018, when Tice was assigned to the Dunedin, Fla., Blue Jays at the Class A Advanced level competing in the Florida State League.

Interestingly, Tice shares a birthday with Dunedin teammate Kevin Smith, who plays shortstop and third base. Both will turn 22 on America's birthday, July 4.

Smith, who now checks in at 6-1, 188 pounds, posted a Tweet on Oct. 25, 2017, titled "Believe in yourself."

Smith writes: "In seventh grade I had a teammate tell me every day to stop playing baseball. I was too small, not fast enough, and he didn't understand why I played. I kept playing. In eighth grade I was told I made the 'biggest mistake' when I went to try out for the best team in my area. I wouldn't play shortstop, they were too good. I did my junior year (thanks to the South Troy Dodgers my biggest mistake). I was told I made a mistake committing to Maryland as the fourth shortstop, saying I wouldn't play there and my career would end. I started all three years and (thanks to my coaches and teammates at Maryland) I'm entering my first professional off-season. I've been told I don't do other things and I'm working towards doing them now. When everyone is telling you no, you know, you have two options: agree with them, or smile and go do it. To the kids going through something similar, the thing everyone says you can't do, is the exact thing you need."

Tice's cousin, Jalen Beeks, recently made his Major League Baseball debut on Thursday, June 7, pitching 4 innings as a starter for the Boston Red Sox and taking a 7-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers.

Tice was involved in a game and didn't watch Beeks' game which was televised by ESPN, but has since viewed footage and highlights. Beeks surrendered 5 runs in the first inning before settling into a rhythm. He allowed only one more run over the next three innings.

"He battled, it was one of those games where he came out and did what Jalen does and competed," Tice said. "It was a great opportunity for Jalen. I think he showed those guys that he can compete up there."

Like Beeks, who was returned to Boston's Triple A affiliate, Pawtucket, after Thursday's game; Tice has his sights on making the majors.

Tice's approach to the game is simple, "I just try to get better every day."

Sports on 06/13/2018

Print Headline: Fine Tuning Finisher

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