Tyler Locklear, 2019, Archbishop Curley High School

by Pat O’Malley

Tyler Locklear says, “I compete with myself” and the result has been his constant improvement as a power hitting third baseman that has major league baseball scouts drooling. It’s a consensus that his extraordinary “hard work” has established him as a bonafide blue-chipper on the national collegiate baseball scene.

From being Archbishop Curley’s all-time home run hitter to threatening the single season record for dongs at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., Locklear has gained national attention in NCAA Division 1 baseball. After belting a school record 24 career home runs, the 2019 Curley grad and right-hand hitter currently ranks among the top four home run hitters in D1 baseball. He is also VSN’s No. 2 Baseball Infielder of the Decade.

Progressing as a power hitter, Tyler Locklear is among the nation’s home run leaders as a sophomore at Virginia Commonwealth University, with 14 thus far this season.

“Tyler is the hardest worker I have ever coached, just a perfect kid,” said former Curley coach Brooks Norris, who led the Friars to a 28-4 MIAA A Conference Championship season in 2018 earning VSN honors as Coach of the Year with the area’s No. 1 ranked team and a junior All-Metro third baseman with 10 homers – Tyler Locklear.

“He would leave football practice and sprint to the baseball field for practice, unbelievable. He was a three-year captain of our team.”

Locklear played four years each of football and baseball for the Friars and was All-MIAA in both sports. He played tight end in football.

Current Curley baseball coach Joe Gaeta, who was in charge of baseball operations at the school before succeeding Norris in 2020, echoed the Norris opinion of Locklear saying, “Tyler is the hardest working kid I have ever seen. We use him as a benchmark calling some of our kids, a Tyler Locklear type of player.”

Gaeta is well aware of how fortunate he would be with a handful of Locklears on his team.

Locklear’s highly productive 4-year varsity high school career with the Friars has led to his clouting 14 long balls as a VCU sophomore as of April 21. Only three other D1 college players are ahead of Locklear and each of them had 15 dongs. A couple weeks ago, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Locklear led the nation with his 10th homer having walloped four dingers and knocked in 12 runs to earn Atlantic Conference Player of the Week. At one point along the way to 14, Locklear left the park in six of his last 8 games, including a grand slam in a loss to No. 18 Virginia Tech.

The VCU school record for most home runs in a single season is 19 by outfielder Jason DuBois in the 2000 season. DuBois was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 14th round that summer, signed and played two years in the majors with the Cubs and one more briefly in the American League with Cleveland.

With approximately 25 games or more left if the Rams qualify for the NCAA D1 tournament by winning their Atlantic 10 Tourney, Locklear has a shot at their school record and possibly the national crown. However, he is more concerned about leading the Rams to the NCAA post season and will let the dingers take care of themselves.

Sporting a neat beard for the first time in his life, Locklear was batting .340 with the 14 long balls to go with 41 RBIs, 40 runs scored, 8 doubles and two triples, 29 walks, 13 hit-by-pitch and over 100 total bases in his first 35 games. He doesn’t credit the facial hair for his start and has it because of a team rule and the encouragement of his teammates.

VCU is “a close knit team” according to Locklear and Coach Stiffler has a team rule that if the team has a cumulative 3.0 GPA they are allowed to have facial hair. Thus the beard go with what he has learned along the way.

“My dad coached me when I was growing up until I was 14,” said Tyler of his dad, Todd Locklear, who was an outstanding outfielder at Glen Burnie High school back in the 80’s and played in the first two Oriolelanders All-Star Games as well as for the Johnny’s powerhouse of legendary coach Walter Youse. His brother Jeff, a left-handed pitcher, also played at Glen Burnie and later in the San Franciso Giants’ organization.

“I came from an athletic family and learned how to play the game the right way from my dad, Coach Norris and his dad Tim at Curley and with Youse’s Orioles (named after Walter Youse and Tyler led the team to a National title in the summer of 2016). My dad and I used to butt heads over baseball when I was younger, but he had my best interests at heart and watched me develop. He helped me a lot.”

Locklear, a two-time All-Metro and Maryland State Association of Baseball Coaches Preseason All-State selection in his last two years, burst onto the local high scene his sophomore season batting .365 with 6 homers, 9 doubles and a pair of 3-baggers. He followed up his 10th grade season with his biggest prep campaign in the Friars banner 2018 season, batting .355 with 10 long balls, 35 RBIs (second only to teammate and All-Decade DH-1B-P Paul Nixon’s 43 RBIs) and 7 two-baggers.

Closing his prep career in 2019, Locklear had a .500 batting clip (38-for-76) with six more dongs, six doubles and 24 RBIs to finish his 4-year career with 103 RBIs, just four short of the school record 107 by Mike Costello. Costello, a fellow third sacker, played 1997 through 1999 and had a huge 58-RBI season his senior year.

In June of 2019 Locklear was invited to Camden Yards by then Orioles’ scout Dean Albany to participate in a pre-draft tryout and put on a show launching seven balls long distance.

“Tyler hit seven balls out at the Yard, several going into the bullpen area,” said Albany, who is now a Philadelphia Philly scout. “He showed a lot of power that day.:

Locklear, who was a three-time All-MIAA A Conference player and an Under Armour All-American after his huge 2018 campaign, had made the Under Armour Showcase Game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, the iconic home of the Chicago Cubs in 2017. Locklear was one of 40 select players from across the nation.

“I popped up twice that day,” Locklear dismayed, but he was thrilled over getting to play at Wrigley and later he got to play at the Cubs’ Arizona spring training site.

The exposure proved to be invaluable and he was recruited hard by VCU’s Rich Witten and became the latter’s first signee for head coach Shawn Stiffler, who took over the reins of the Rams in 2013 following the retirement of 18-year coach Paul Keyes. Witten’s initial signee has the Rams more than satisfied.

Witten was impressed with Locklear’s power-potential which projects pro-level because of his quick hands that allows him to generate plus bat speed. The ball literally jumps off his bat fueling power to all fields.

“My swing hasn’t changed, but working with our strength coach Tom Kontos, I’ve definitely gotten stronger,” said Locklear. “I’ve been able to adjust to the speed of the game at this level and after playing in 16 games in 2020, I’ve learned what to expect.”

Locklear, who has sure hands, a good arm and range, feels he has also gotten better defensively at the hot corner.

“Defense is our strong suit at VCU and I think my arm strength has improved because of the conditioning and so has my range,” said Locklear, who has his sites on a pro-baseball career as he majors in Exercise Science and a career in physical therapy if his bat doesn’t take him somewhere else.

This summer he will play in the highly competitive Cape Cod League, the best amateur summer circuit in the country. Locklear is set to play for the Firebirds and ironically one of his teammates is going to be Texas Tech Red Raiders’ infielder Jace Jung, who is one of three players with 15 dongs in the NCAA D1 homer race.

“It’s kind of neat Tyler and Jung will be playing together this summer,” said Tyler’s father, who has been a near 20-year employee of Under Armour and who has seen most of his son’s games, high school and college, and who still often treks over to Curley to watch the Friars.

“Some of the best compliments you get as a parent is when others say good things about one of your kids. I’ve always heard good things about Tyler and that means a lot to me and my wife Nicole. We’re so proud of Tyler, not only as a baseball player but as a young man. I would certainly like my daughter (McKenna, a field hockey player at Harford Tech) to marry someone like Tyler.”

No. 3 Infielder: Kody Milton, 2018, Severna Park High School

No. 4 Infielder: Marty Costes, 2015, Archbishop Curley High School

No. 5 Infielder: Ryan Archibald, 2018, John Carroll High School

No. 6 Infielder: Max Costes, 2018, Gilman School

No. 1 1B/DH: Gavin Sheets, 2014, Gilman School

No. 2 1B/DH: Joe Siedler, 2018, Chesapeake-AA High School

No. 3 1B/DH: Paul Nixon, 2018, Archbishop Curley High School

No. 1 Outfielder: LaMonte Wade, 2012, St. Paul’s School

No. 2 Outfielder: Matt Bosse, 2011, Calvert Hall College

No. 3 Outfielder: Billy Godrick, 2016, Archbishop Spalding