There is an old saying that it’s better to be lucky than good. Add hard work and determination and you have William Lane Vest. Last week the Detroit Tigers drafted Will in the 12th round.
Will is a right handed middle inning reliever and set up man. According to the blog SB Nation, “Vest was originally an infielder who transitioned to the mound prior to the 2017 season. He fared quite well.”
Will’s introduction to baseball came at an early age. He and his two brothers, Clint and Drew, were throwing and handling a baseball by the time they could walk. Their dad, Matt (my brother) didn’t want to waste any time. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that he sneaked a baseball into their cribs just to give them the feel of it right off.
Baseball is more than a tradition for the Vests; it’s a way of life. Clint and Drew have their own families now and are already passing it on to their new-born sons. I was there during draft week and saw a baby sitting up as a dad pushed a slow roller to him; the wee lad stopped it with one hand and sent it back with authority.
When Will was in kindergarten, Father Matt and Mother Melanie attended a function at his school and noticed that the kids had answered the question, “What do you want to do when you grow up.” Will said he would play major league baseball.
The poet Donald Hall wrote “Baseball is fathers and sons playing catch, lazy and murderous, wild and controlled, the profound archaic song of birth, growth, age and death. This diamond encloses what we are.”
The official line on Will is that he used to play shortstop, and became a pitcher just before the 2017 season. That’s true, but not the whole story.
Back in 2015 Will was pitching on scout day and felt a pop in his arm. One more pop and he knew something wasn’t right. He had torn the ligament in his elbow, and soon would have Tommy John surgery. Will knew he would have to be motivated to stay in the game. So he posted a daily reminder on his bedroom wall to help him stay focused:
“Rome wasn’t built in one day; you have to work for it. Don’t give up. Goal: Get healthy and get drafted !! What have you done today to get BETTER?
His determination and work ethic paid off. One and a half years later he was playing baseball again. Will began facing live hitters just this past February. According to the Detroit News, “In Vest, the Tigers landed a pitcher who had collegiate success as a reliever. This season, in 31 games, all relief appearances, he posted a 1.38 ERA and struck out 46 in 45.2 innings. Interestingly, the 6-1, 190-pounder spent his first two seasons as a hitter, before making the transition to the mound.”
Will throws a 92 mph plus fastball and has a curve and change up.
I don’t know much about the percentage of young draftees who make it to the “Bigs.” But the Tigers drafted twenty-one pitchers, so it seems like some hefty competition to me. I’ll put my money on Will; he’s worked hard a long time for this moment.