USPBL's Tyler Palm, Oakland alum, signs with Twins
This is that time of year, when there's a whole lot of changeover on rosters with the United Shore Professional Baseball League.
With the Major League Baseball draft over, several non-drafted free agents are signing with the four-team independent circuit out in Utica, which has a nasty ripple effect, pushing several others out of a job.
Tyler Palm is one of those moving on from USPBL, but to a much different — and better — scenario, having signed a pro contract last week with the Minnesota Twins.
It was quite the full-circle moment for Palm, a right-handed pitcher and Oakland alum, who knows all too well the feeling of going undrafted. Last June, Palm watched one round after another, 40 in all, come and go without his name scrolling across the screen.
"It sucked. It sucked a lot," Palm said this week from Fort Myers, Fla., where the Twins' minor-league base is located. "It was a humbling experience to where I am now. But with every bad thing that happens, if you react in the right way, it's only going to get better — your character — and make you a stronger person."
Palm, 22, becomes the 21st player from the USPBL to sign with a major league organization, impressive considering the league is just three years old. Palm is the first to sign with a major league organization this year, after seven in 2017 and 13 in 2016. The Twins have been a popular shopper, signing four last year.
The news actually caught Palm by surprise. The West Branch native made his scheduled start Saturday at Jimmy John's Field, then his manager, Paul Noce, approached and asked him to stick around.
"OK, I figured he just wanted to talk about my mechanics. I had felt kind of off (that outing)," said Palm, a second-year member of the Eastside Diamond Hoppers. "Then he said, 'Hey, come with me really quick,' and I saw my family on the field and I'm thinking, 'Ahhh, now I know what's going on.' It was pretty crazy.
"There were tears in my mom's eyes.
"I found out literally right when it happened."
Palm's adviser and his family, as well as USPBL staff, were able to keep it a secret. (To be honest, even the media knew before Palm, a little fact that had him chuckling.) And It was a good thing the USPBL planned the ceremony, along the third-base line, after the fifth inning. It rained in the sixth, and the game was washed out.
Palm, in hindsight, also was grateful he didn't know ahead of time.
"I hit like two people that game," he said, laughing. "If I would've known, I probably would've hit three or four."
This is quite the fairytale for Palm, a 6-foot-8, 250-pounder whose four-year collegiate career at Oakland was anything but remarkable. He was 5-17 with a 6.47 ERA, and battled a shoulder impingement at the end of his senior season.
Then he went undrafted, and had some tough decisions to make: Keep grinding toward the baseball dream, or get started on what he calls "the real world." A communications major, that probably would've included an internship to start, and then who knows.
"It's not a bad thing to start the 'real world,' but to continue to play a game you loved as a kid and get paid for it, you might as well keep doing it," Palm said.
Palm hooked on with the USPBL, and developed a strong bond with Justin Orenduff, the league's director of baseball operations.
They knew there was work to be done, specifically on mechanics, for two reasons — one, to ease the stress on the shoulder, and two, to increase the velocity. Palm was introduced to the Delivery Value System (DVS), and saw significant dividends, particularly this past offseason. A more-strenuous weight-training regimen was key, too.
His fastball was 87 to 89 at Oakland, but got up into the low-90s this year — numbers that play up, given his extreme height ("The weather up here is pretty nice, in case you were wondering," he loves to joke) and his downhill throwing motion. He had 10 strikeouts in 17 innings out of the bullpen in 2017, and back in a starter role this season, he struck out 26 in 25⅔ innings, numbers that opened eyes, particularly the Twins'.
"It was one of those things where I knew I could do it, but the act of it all coming together and putting in all the work ..." Palm said. "I knew I had it in me. But this came together a lot quicker than I thought it would've."
After Saturday's game, it was a quick turnaround for Palm, who flew out to Fort Myers on Sunday to take his physical and sign his contract. He then spent several days working out with Twins draft picks.
Next up is a stint with the Elizabethtown Twins, Minnesota's rookie-league affiliate in Tennessee. He leaves for there Saturday night.
And, no offense Fort Myers, but Palm won't miss ya.
"I've been down here since Sunday night, and have been getting absolutely destroyed by this heat and humidity," he said, laughing. "I just had a two-minute Charley Horse.
"It's 90 degrees, with baseball pants. I felt like I hopped in a pool with my clothes in.
"I walk outside and i need to change my shirt."