After a four-year career bookended with national championships, former UConn forward Tyler Olander has been playing baseball in the Hartford Twilight League while searching for a basketball contract overseas.
The 6-foot-10 lefty has made two appearances so far for the first place Vernon Orioles (17-1), tossing six scoreless innings, four of which came in his first start Thursday, where he struck out five and scattered four hits.
Despite being away from the game for eight years in order to focus on basketball, Olander began throwing with current UConn outfielder and fellow Mansfield native Jack Sundberg, and eventually ended up throwing in front of UConn's head baseball coach, Jim Penders. The lefty features a mid 80s fastball and relies heavily on a sharp curveball that he can locate with ease.
Although he has enjoyed modest success so far on the diamond, his focus remains on the court. He will most likely follow in the footsteps of his brother Ryan and look to play in Lithuania or follow his former roommate, Niels Giffey, to a team in Germany. However, he has not ruled out the possibility of returning to UConn for grad school and using his fifth year of athletic eligibility to pitch for the Huskies as a walk on if he is able to make the team.
If Olander makes the team, he could certainly be of use to Penders and the Huskies. The team lost two left handed pitchers, Anthony Marzi and Brian Ward, who were first and fifth respectively in innings pitched, to graduation, leaving them with only four lefties on the roster. Simply put, left handers with Olander's size, velocity, and quality breaking pitch are hard to find, and despite his raw talent, he could very well be a serviceable pitcher with some practice.
Should Olander make the baseball team, he would not be the first basketball player to do so. Walt Dropo averaged 20.7 points per game on the court for the Huskies and later signed with the Boston Red Sox. After three years in the minors, Dropo hit .322 with 34 home runs and 144 RBI in 1950 to beat out Whitey Ford for the American League Rookie of the Year. "The Moose" went on to play 12 more years in the MLB for the Tigers, White Sox, Reds, and Orioles.
Another basketball and baseball standout was forward Scott Burrell, who was the first American to ever be drafted in the first round by major sports leagues when he was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays and Charlotte Hornets. Burrell scored over 1500 points for the Huskies and is best known for his full court pass to Tate George on "The Shot" to beat Clemson in the 1990 NCAA Tournament.
Although the chances of Olander returning to UConn are slim and his chances of playing baseball for the Huskies are slimmer, it will certainly be interesting to see how the rest of his appearances on the mound turn out this summer.