TULSA, Okla. – Three players from the 2017 Oral Roberts baseball team made their professional debut over the summer and shared their most memorable experiences from opening day to the close of their first season. Dylan Snypes, Matt Whatley and Bryce Howe all finished their junior season for the Golden Eagles in the NCAA Regional in June before jumping to the pro ranks following the MLB Draft.
Snypes was the first of the three to make his debut after being drafted in the 15th round by the New York Mets and saw action in 37 games for the Class A Short Season Brooklyn Cyclones. He capped the year hitting .167 with three doubles, a triple and three RBI, while putting up a .301 on-base percentage. A product of State Line, Mississippi, he made his debut June 23 as a pinch runner and earned the starting nod at short stop June 24, where he tallied his first hit of the year.
Whatley, a third-round draft pick of the Texas Rangers, appeared in 44 games and posted a .295 batting average with 13 extra-base hits, six of which were home runs, and 28 RBI (Home Run Video). He made his debut with the Arizona League Rangers June 26 going 1-for-3 with two runs scored. The Claremore, Oklahoma, native was promoted to the Class A Short Season Spokane Indians and jumped into the lineup July 6. He closed his first pro season with hits in eight of the final nine games, including a 4-for-5 effort with five RBI August 30.
Howe pitched in 16 games for the Miami Marlins organization following his 18th-round selection in the draft. He made 14 appearances for the Marlins in the Gulf Coast League, including his professional debut June 28, and registered a 1-3 record before moving up to Class A Short Season with the Batavia Muckdogs for his final two outings Aug. 30 and Sept. 5. A Claremore, Oklahoma, native, Howe posted a minuscule 1.37 earned run average in 19.2 innings of work with four saves. He picked up his first win throwing three shutout innings July 20 and followed with the first save of his career in his next outing.
What were your emotions like when making your professional debut?
Snypes: "It was a moment I will never forget. Playing in front of 7,000 people in New York was something special. I was a little more nervous than usual, but I just tried to keep my approach at the plate simple and play the game like I know I can."
Whatley: "I was very excited, in both of my debuts. The one with Spokane was the one I remember most as the crowd was awesome and the guys were great, plus we ended up winning 2-1 in a close ballgame."
Howe: "We were in West Palm Beach playing the GCL Nationals and they told me to start getting loose in the 8th inning to be ready for the 9th. When the 9th came I was in. I remember jogging out to the mound just telling myself to relax. I'm pretty sure I threw a pitch off the backstop in warmups. After that I was able to relax and realize that it's the same game I've played since I was seven. While I was pitching, I told myself to trust what I was going to throw and to pitch with a bulldog mentality."
Looking back at your first season, what was your most memorable moment?
Snypes: "I would say enjoying a walk off win with my team."
Whatley: "The most memorable moment I had during the season was the playoff run we went on at the end of the season. It came down to the last regular season game and we were able to win in walk-off fashion to get into the postseason."
Howe: "My most memorable moment was when the organization told me they were sending me up to Batavia to finish off the season with the Muckdogs."
How did your time at ORU prepare you for the next level of your baseball career?
Snypes: "All the coaches at ORU have had a taste of pro ball and know what it takes to get there and prepare for it! I know I can always go to them if I need anything. Having a good relationship with your team and your coaches can make a tremendous difference in baseball. I also made life-long friends at ORU and enjoyed every minute with them."
Whatley: "My time at ORU will be a time I always cherish. The team and the coaches truly developed me, to not only a decent ball player, but a better man. Without them, I wouldn't be in the situation I am in today."
Howe: "ORU was everything to me. The coaches taught us how to play baseball without holding anything back. I think the best thing that happened to me was moving from the Friday night role to the bullpen. The biggest thing I had to fix was being too hard on myself. When I moved to the bullpen, I got in the game more often and started gaining more confidence. And then all the guys I've played with made my three years at ORU the best time of my life. I wouldn't trade the teams I played on for any other. The guys always had my back and would do anything for me if I needed something."
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