Nevada's Tyler Cochran never imagined he’d play Division I baseball, let alone doing so on a pitcher's mound. Growing up, Cochran played basketball, baseball and soccer and believed the latter of those three would be his sport in college. But after going to Folsom (Calif.) Lake College, the coaching staff suggested he moved from the outfield to pitching, which changed the trajectory of his career. Cochran joined Nevada last season and has emerged as the Wolf Pack's closer this year, posting a team-high three saves with a 4.82 ERA in 14 appearances (18.2 innings). As a result, Cochran is Nevada Sports Net's Wolf Pack Athlete of the Month for April, an honor presented in partnership with Champion Chevrolet.
You can watch the full interview with Cochran below, or check out our Q&A underneath that.
Prior to transferring to Nevada you were at Folsom Lake College, and before that you took a hiatus from baseball for two years. So why the leave of absence?
TC: "After high school, it was either go to Folsom Lake or Feather River, keep playing baseball, or go to Sac State to go to school. So I went for Folsom Lake. I had a little break there because I redshirted. So I was still playing, but I just wasn't playing in games for the first year because I transitioned from an outfielder to a pitcher. That’s kind of my brief of absence there."
What made you just fall in love with baseball again?
TC: "I never really realized how much of a grind it is. And so I had to kind of learn the whole pitching thing. I didn't pitch a whole lot in high school. So I transitioned from outfielder to pitcher. I really found the love for pitching, and I wanted to learn as much as I could and get as good as I could with my time not playing. So I was working out, I was out practicing every day and working and focusing on my school. It was a good little break."
When was the moment you switched from being an outfielder to being a pitcher?
TC: "It was about halfway through my first fall. They told me, ‘Hey, you might get 100 at bats in two years here as an outfielder, but if you really want to contribute to a team and play at the next level, it's going to be pitching.’ So I was, like, 'I'm all for it.'"
Had a coach seen you pitch to know you have what it takes?
TC: "I played for one of the coaches at Folsom Lake over the summer a couple of years back, and I did a couple innings for him. But I had a pretty good arm from the outfield. And so one day they were, like, 'Hey, bullpen. I practiced through my bullpen.' And then they're, like, ‘Hey, it's your decision.’ And I was, like, 'I'm all for it.'"
What was your initial reaction when they asked for you to pitch?
TC: "I was a little shocked because I think I threw four or five bullpens in all of high school. We only had 11 guys on my high school team. So they'd be, like, ‘Hey, everyone's pitching.’ They’d pull me in from the outfield and I’d come pitch."
What was it about your time at Folsom that strengthened your game?
TC: "I just I developed. I mean, I graduated high school, I was 5-10, 140 pounds. (He's now listed at 6-2, 190.) It was just me working out every day, finding a good group of guys to go to the gym with that were also redshirting. And then it's kind of just that culture and that bond that you have with those guys because nothing's handed to you. You've got to work for everything. So it's a culture, a group that you know will be with you forever."
Where do you get that grit from?
TC: "Just kind of always being the underdog. I’ve always been the smaller one, especially in baseball. So I was always just kind of having to grind to at least be able to play with my peers."
Do you think your coaches from when you were younger are surprised to see you in this new role?
TC: "My dad was my coach all the way through Little League, and I hardly would throw. I'd come in with bases loaded and our pitcher can't throw strikes. He be like, ‘Just those strikes. Like, let them hit it.’ So that was kind of my role. High school would be the same thing. Just come in and throw strikes. I tried to get out of jams or whatever. I mean, my dad's not shocked. My high school coach, he was kind of like, 'I always knew you kind of would transition that way.' But I've always had a feel for it, but I never really thought I would actually be a pitcher in college."
How much of an impact your dad had on your game today?
TC: "I'd say a good amount, just showing me the ropes when I was younger. He was always a little tougher on me and my brothers when we were playing. My brother, the next youngest below me, he was actually playing with me when he was 8 and I was 11 up in majors for Little League. So he was always getting pushed around. And so he's always just had been tougher on us, you know, when he was coaching us and then also holding us to high expectations while we were playing."
You mentioned your brothers. You have three of them and being the oldest of them all, how much do they mean to you?
TC: "Everything. I mean, I would do anything for those guys. My two youngest brothers, they're both still playing baseball. So every now and then they'll ask me for help. But as far as the hitting-side goes, I'm kind of like, 'I don't know.'"
You were athletic growing up. You played basketball, soccer and baseball. When did you know that baseball was your sport?
TC: "Honestly, in high school, soccer was kind of my sport. Like I said, I always thought I was going to play college and then I kept trying to play at a couple of different schools and reaching out to them. And I had a couple of things in the works and then I was, like, 'I'm going to try to play baseball,' so then it was probably going into my senior year where I was like, 'I'm going to play baseball.' And then I played for my summer ball coach for one of the coaches at Folsom Lake, and he's, like, 'Hey, if you want to play let me know.’ And I called them up halfway through my senior year, I came to play and he's like, ‘All right, sounds good.’"
You're now seeing action on the diamond with the Wolf Pack. Having played 14 games so far, what have you learned?
TC: "I've learned that anything can happen. The Pack, you're never out of a game. So we're excited for the for the rest of the season."
The Wolf Pack has a massive roster this season, so how do you separate yourself from the rest of the talent on the team?
TC: "Just by kind of putting my head down and putting my work in and hoping that my work kind of leads by an example for some of the other guys. I'm an older guy, even though it's my first year actually playing. I was here last year, but redshirted due to injury. So I've kind of been around. So I just kind of let my leadership kind of speak for itself and my maturity speak for itself when I'm out there on the mound."
What does that leadership look like?
TC: "For me, I'm more of a quiet leader, so I kind of just go about my work. People follow or, you know, I'll go if someone is not doing something right or if they need some assistance. I kind of go with the arm around them and talk. That's how my leadership takes place at the field."
You list Madison Bumgarner as your sports hero. What is it about him that you love?
TC: "I just love the competitiveness. I mean, he wants the ball in any situation. You look back a couple of years ago when they had that run, there was a time he started like game one, game five and then came in game seven like he wanted the ball. He wanted to beat the other team. That's what I like about him."
What do you love to do when you're when you're not on the field?
TC: "I like to play video games. I'm playing MLB the Show right now. When I was younger, we'd go play whiffle ball with my brothers whenever we weren't doing something or go play football in the street or basketball. So I kind of just enjoy just doing stuff outdoors, sports related even if it's just messing around."
What do you hope to achieve with the Wolf Pack?
TC: "I hope that we can we can win the conference, leave a name for ourselves and make an impact on the culture here. So we'll see how things go the rest of this year and into next year. But I'm excited for the rest of this run, the rest of this year."