Tommy John has ex-Bull with Dawgs

Baseball: Surgery as Tyler Vavra in WMBL after two-year hiatus

By: Bruce Campbell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jul 02, 2014 11:08 am

Tyler Vavra grips a baseball after picking up the win against his ex-team the Lethbridge Bulls on June 25. The scare at his elbow is from Tommy John surgery he had two years ago.
Tyler Vavra grips a baseball after picking up the win against his ex-team the Lethbridge Bulls on June 25. The scare at his elbow is from Tommy John surgery he had two years ago.
Bruce Campbell/OWW

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An Okotoks Dawg made the best of his first 10 days with the team.

Right-handed reliever Tyler Vavra survived a 10-day trial and picked up his first win of the season when the Dawgs beat his former team the Lethbridge Bulls 9-8 on June 25 at Seaman Stadium.

“It’s awesome to face those guys,” Vavra said. “I respect the Lethbridge Bulls organization. I grew up playing with a lot of them and it’s fun to compete against friends out there.”

Vavra, along with outfielder Zachiary Johnson, were on a 10-day trial at the start of the season.

“The 10-day trial was just to see if I could still play at this level,” Vavra said. “I knew I had done well in this league before. I just wanted to come in, play my best baseball and it has worked out well for me.”

The trial is over and both players will be Dawgs for the remainder of the season. Vavra, who is taking his masters in sports administration at Canisius College in Buffalo, was confident he would be a Dawg for the summer.

“In my head it was 100 per cent,” Vavra said. “You have to come in confident, especially on a 10-day contract and be ready to compete.”

Vavra was with the Bulls for the 2010 and 2011 seasons before blowing out his elbow.

“I was at Lethbridge to play summer ball for two years and then I had ‘Tommy John’ in my junior year at Eastern Michigan — so I missed my junior and senior year,” Vavra said. “I had decided to play another year of summer ball and I live in Calgary with my parents, so this was the perfect.”

Tommy John is one of the best pitchers not in the Major League Baseball hall of fame, but he was the first to have the corrective elbow surgery — a surgery, named after the southpaw with 288 wins in the majors.

The surgery has a tendon taken from a part of the body, in Vavra’s case his wrist, and is used to replace an injured ligament in the elbow.

“It has been an interesting ride for me because it has taken two years to get the innings in — the repetitions — to throw the way I did before,” the 23-year-old Vavra said. “The reason I didn’t quit was because I have a lot of friends who have played professional baseball and that has always been a dream of mine.

“My parents have always said if you set your mind to something, go get it.”

His dad has the go-get-it attitude. Greg Vavra is a lawyer who played quarterback for the Calgary Stampeders — one of few Canadians QBs to start — and won the Hec Creighton Award with the University of Calgary Dinos in 1983.

“He continues to harp on the importance of training hard,” Tyler said. “When you go through the tough times of sport… You have to win to continue to play in this game and he supports me through the ups and downs.”

Dawgs head coach Brett Thomas said Vavra — and Johnson — are here to stay.

“Right now we are a closer by committee and he’s been outstanding his last couple of outings,” Thomas said. “He is a guy we do trust at the end of the game, but he might come in earlier because we feel the match-up is better. He can also throw for an extended period of time, so maybe he can come in and throw for three or four innings.

“I wouldn’t say he is a closer as much as a guy we can rely on in clutch situations.”

Vavra has a 1-1 record with the Dawgs and an ERA of 3.37 in his five appearances this season.

The Dawgs won three of four games last week and have improved to 8-12 after a dreadful start.

The Dawgs started a nine-game homestand on Monday against the Melville Millionaires.


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