When Tyler Byerly took the field for Washington Township's season opener a few weeks ago, it was the end of year-long wait to play varsity baseball.
"I was just excited to be out there," the Senators shortstop said.
Byerly attended Crown Point as a sophomore and was on the JV team. After school ended, he and his family decided that for him to realize his dream of playing college baseball, he needed to be in a smaller environment.
"That was my true goal and I needed to get my grades higher to do that," he said. "That was my part. I knew my Breakers coach would get me out there available to colleges."
The Byerlys, who live in Lakes of the Four Seasons, looked at a number of schools, including nearby Boone Grove, before deciding on Washington.
"It just felt like it was a better fit, that it was what I needed," Byerly said.
He was settling in well at Washington when the news came that C.P. wasn't going to sign off on the transfer. Byerly could only play JV baseball last spring.
"It's not like he was transferring to another DAC school or another unnamed school," Senators coach Randy Roberts said. "Who would leave Crown Point to go to Washington Township?"
Roberts knew little of Byerly before the start of practice, at which point, he said, it became clear he was a good player.
Byerly bided his time on JV. When he didn't have a game, he put on his uniform pants and stirrup socks and sat in the varsity dugout.
"I wanted to be a part of the team," he said. "I was disappointed at first, but there were two ways to go about it. I could sit and pout or work twice as hard so when I did play, I could make progress. I saw every opportunity to be on the field as a chance to work harder and get better. That's all I wanted to do."
As coaches go, Roberts qualifies as a taskmaster. Praise does not come easily. When he speaks of Byerly, he's effusive.
"Other than Josh Biggs, his will to work and prepare is unmatched by any ballplayer I've had out here," Roberts said. "I've had a lot of great kids who have worked hard, but they only work as hard as what they see. A lot of kids play baseball. Tyler's a kid who's worked hard at playing. He's willing to do what needs to be done, and it's paid off."
That was particularly evident in the 90-degree heat of July and August when Byerly spent two hours fielding ground balls.
"He doesn't get bad hops," Roberts said. "You can't teach that. You have to take ground ball after ground ball after ground ball."
Byerly has solidified the middle infield for Washington and hit a whopping .680 in the leadoff spot for the first five games.
"I had confidence in myself and I'm confident in my team behind me," he said. "I love the team. Everybody supports each other. I think we've got a really good shot at doing some damage. I just want to provide my best effort, never give up, never let anything get in my way."
Already signed to play for Owens Community College in Toledo, Ohio, Byerly has no regrets about what's happened.
"That's in the past," he said. "I'm living for now. I still have friends over at Crown Point I keep in touch with, hang out with, and I've made a lot of new friends at Washington Township. I don't have one doubt about where I am. It was a lot of work and effort, but the price was definitely worth it."