Graig Keeton originally discovered Tyler Jaynes’ potential.
Three years later, Baylor recognized it too.
On a whim, Gatesville’s head coach threw Jaynes, who was a freshman catcher at the time, onto the mound during a tournament, expecting nothing more than a few innings of relief. Instead, Keeton instantly determined Jaynes was a natural pitcher and convinced him to change positions.
The impulse proved right.
Jaynes, who developed into the Hornets’ top pitcher prior to graduating during the spring, achieved a long-time dream to play Division I baseball by accepting a walk-on position at Baylor on Wednesday afternoon in a ceremony inside Gatesville’s gymnasium.
“It’s exciting,” Jaynes said, “but now I’ve got a lot to prove. I want to make the starting lineup over at Baylor. There are a lot of things I’ve got to do to improve, and that is my main focus right now.”
After witnessing Jaynes’ accelerated transition firsthand, Keeton has no doubts he’ll thrive with the Bears.
“Most kids that are pitchers are going to be on the mound by the time they are seven or eight (years old) and Tyler wasn’t,” Keeton said. “With his frame, how he developed, how he worked and his long, lean muscles, he just looks like a pitcher. He threw the ball like a pitcher, and there wasn’t any way around it.
“That was where the most talent for him was going to be. We recognized it, and he bought into it, his parents bought into it even through he had always been a catcher, and from then on he developed and became who he is.”
Despite having never played the position competitively, Jaynes had no reservations about taking on the new role.
“It’s no big deal transitioning to a pitcher because as a kid growing up, (when you play) baseball, you want to be a pitcher. When you play football, you want to be a quarterback, so it is the position you want to play.”
Midway through his sophomore season, it was evident to Keeton that Jaynes was the Hornets’ ace.
As a senior, Jaynes posted a 2.83 ERA, striking out 78 batters over a dozen games and was placed on the all-district second team. The Hornets struggled, though, finishing the season with a 21-14 record (5-5 District 8-3A) and missed the playoffs for a third consecutive year.
Things did not become any easier after the season concluded. While going through the walk-on procedure and patiently holding out for a chance to earn his spot at Baylor, Jaynes turned down several offers from Division II and Division III programs.
“It has been a rough ride,” Jaynes said of the recruiting process. “I had lots of options, but this has always been one of my dreams from the very beginning. I just had to be patient, but it has been a struggle. ... It is just a huge relief to be given this opportunity.”