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High School sports

‘I was honestly speechless’: Archbishop Curley grad Tyler Locklear celebrates rise to second round of MLB draft

Since he was 4 years old, this was Tyler Locklear’s dream.

Surrounded by friends and family at his mom’s restaurant, Bushmill Tavern in Abingdon, he waited for his name to be called during Sunday night’s telecast of the first two rounds of the Major League Baseball draft. He was with the people who knew him best, from the family members he attended Ravens games with for 20 years to the classmates who saw him become a star infielder at Archbishop Curley and eventually Virginia Commonwealth University.

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When the long-awaited moment arrived — Locklear was selected in the second round, 58th overall, by the Seattle Mariners — at least a dozen people held up their phones to capture it on video and cheer.

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All Locklear could do was smile.

“I was honestly speechless,” the 6-foot-3, 210-pound corner infielder said. “Just all the hard work you put in and then finally, like a team believing in you and taking you for the organization that was all a dream come true.”

The Abingdon native was an Under Armour All-American and Baltimore Sun first-team All-Metro selection at Curley before graduating in 2019. After setting the program single-season records for home runs (20) and RBIs (78) and earning third-team All-America honors from Baseball America as a redshirt sophomore at VCU, he became the Rams’ highest draft pick since 2004 and the highest drafted player from Maryland this year, taken two rounds ahead of Calvert Hall catcher Lamar King Jr.

Despite being ranked 98th overall by MLB Pipeline and 99th by Baseball America, Locklear believed he’d be drafted somewhere around the 50th overall pick. The two-time All-American dominated in three years at VCU, hitting .361 with 37 home runs in 132 games while leading the Rams to back-to-back Atlantic 10 championships. This past spring, he hit .402.

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“He tested off the charts at the MLB combine last week, which was great information,” Mariners director of amateur scouting Scott Hunter told reporters earlier this week. “It is top-of-the-scale power.”

Add a successful 2021 summer in the wood-bat Cape Cod League, and it wasn’t hard to tell Locklear was going to be highly drafted. Yet it wasn’t until his agent Tom O’Connell texted him that anything began to feel real.

“It was the longest four-and-a-half, five hours I’ve ever experienced,” said Locklear, who has a Native American background and noted it would be meaningful to represent that as a big leaguer.

His dad, Todd Locklear, took him to hit into a golf simulator the day of the draft. Tyler strayed from his normal schedule of hitting baseballs for one day, knowing he needed to calm some nerves.

For Todd, a former college baseball player himself, the time Tyler put into the game around the start of high school was the first hint that his son could one day turn pro.

“He was one of those first one there, last one to leave type of kids,” Todd Locklear said. “And then once he got his driver’s license and he could drive himself anywhere, it was the same routine as it is today.”

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Brooks Norris, Locklear’s coach at Archbishop Curley, was at Sunday night’s watch party, too. He first saw Locklear play when he was recruiting middle school players, a task he says is nearly impossible considering how much projection is needed to identify rising talent.

But while Locklear didn’t stand out with his play that day in summer league, he was clearly one of the bigger kids.

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“Him leaving football practice and coming over and seeing mid-to-upper 80s [mph] pitching and first pitch he just hits a line drive for a hit off a high school senior,” Norris said.

Locklear isn’t the first player Norris has coached to be drafted. He’s been through this before with Marty Costes, when the former Friars and Terps star was taken by the Houston Astros in both 2017 and 2018. This time, he was ready when the Mariners called Locklear’s name.

The first time Norris saw Locklear was the only time he can’t remember being impressed by the young star. He’s certainly not surprised to see him grow into a top prospect.

“The kid has the best attitude I’ve ever seen,” Norris said. “Hardest working kid I’ve been around. I knew there was nothing that was going to stop him other than bad luck.”

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Todd Locklear will now have to wait for his Mariners gear to arrive. It’s a family of Orioles fans, so he joked someone in the packaging room might be confused about sending all these Mariners hats to Harford County.

With Tyler heading out to the Pacific Northwest to start his professional career, Locklear’s family will miss many of his games for the first time. But there’s a small contingent of Mariners fans in Maryland now.

And they’ll be at Camden Yards wearing something other than orange and black if Locklear makes it to the big leagues.


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