Four years behind the plate
Len Smith wrapped up his long run as the Northwestern baseball coach with the 2015 season. Duran Porrino coached the next season, Bob Fatzinger took over for a season before Porrino returned this season. While the coaching has changed over the past four years, one constant for the Tigers has been behind the plate where Tyler Wiik is now a senior. He has been camped out in that role for each of his four high school seasons.
“I think the coolest thing for Tyler is that he actually started his freshman year under Len Smith,” said Porrino. “You’re bridging quite a gap there when you’re catching as a freshman for Len Smith. That’s pretty neat and it goes to show how long he’s been around. It seems like he’s been here forever and that’s a good thing.”
Wiik is proud of having caught so much and most times, doesn’t feel worn out even with all of the wear and tear. He admits that he occasionally has some shaking, achy legs, but figures it just goes with the territory.
While Wiik, who was one of the Tigers’ top two varsity golfers in the fall season, has focused on baseball throughout his athletic career. He’s also been sought after to play football for the Tigers.
“He gets fired up and is that type of player,” said Porrino. “A couple of years ago, [assistant football] coach [Dave] Kershner was trying to get him to come out for football because he’s got that type of mentality. He’s our emotional leader too. He’s the type of kid that will get fired up and head-butt a wall; he’s an emotional guy.”
The defensive part of the game has come easily for Wiik. For most teams, having a catcher who can give you strong defense, block pitches, throw out runners and have an awareness for what’s going on in the game would be enough. This season though, Wiik was challenged to become a more complete player and show more of an offensive game.
“I’ve focused more on my approach and my swing, because I can play behind the plate all day,” said Wiik, who has three home runs through 13 games and is hitting over .400. “I’ve focused more on my approach at the plate and being able to hit the ball to all fields and hit line drives.”
If a challenge to be a better offensive player wasn’t enough, Porrino had a discussion with Wiik and put another responsibility on his shoulders for this season.
“Two years ago, I called the games,” said Porrino. “I talked to him and we trust him to call the games.
The one thing that sticks out in my mind in particular is the Palmerton game. He called that game and he did awesome and we shut them out.
“He’s taken on the mental role of being a catcher and it’s nice to see. He’s setting up pitches, working the corners and working counts. We’ve put a lot more responsibility on him to call games and have an aggressive approach at the plate.”
Wiik is going to be majoring in criminal justice at Bloomsburg University starting in the fall and will also continue his baseball career with the Huskies. Between now and then though, he’s looking for Northwestern (10-3 overall, 9-3 Colonial) to finish off the season strong and potentially go deep into the postseason.
“This is one of the better teams that we’ve had,” said Wiik. “We have a lot of offensive power and can put a lot of runs up on the board in a quick amount of time. We’re also pretty solid defensively.”