Last Updated: Tue Apr 11, 2023 - 11:33AM
As the first player at the Major League level in generations to excel as both a pitcher and a hitter, Shohei Ohtani has ascended to the top of baseball. While Ohtani’s unique greatness is unparalleled, Tyler Horvat has enjoyed tremendous success of his own in both roles at Penn-Trafford High School and now at Washington & Jefferson College. Horvat is featured in the latest edition of the Westmoreland Alum Q&A.
At Penn-Trafford, Horvat made the varsity roster as a sophomore in 2017. That year, PT went 11-10 overall, including 4-6 in section play. The Warriors qualified for the WPIAL Class 6A playoffs, and defeated Butler Area before falling to Canon-McMillan in the quarterfinals.
The following year, the Warriors improved to 13-6, including 7-3 in section play. However, the Warriors were ousted by North Allegheny in the WPIAL Class 6A first round.
In Horvat’s senior campaign in 2019, Penn-Trafford enjoyed a historic campaign. The Warriors went 18-5, including 8-2 in the section. Back in the postseason, PT knocked off Upper St. Clair and North Allegheny to reach the WPIAL Class 6A Championship game. Playing at Wild Things Park, the Warriors came up short against Pine-Richland with gold on the line. Penn-Trafford qualified for the PIAA playoffs, but lost to Wilson in the first round.
Following his graduation, Horvat matriculated to Washington & Jefferson College, joining the Presidents as both a pitcher and outfielder for the 2020 campaign. On the mound, Horvat went 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings, while he posted a .143 batting average in just seven at bats. That season was cut short because of COVID, as the Presidents went 3-6 overall and did not compete in any games in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC).
Horvat established himself as one of the best players in the country in 2021, as he compiled a 9-0 record with an ERA of 1.80 in 70 innings of work on the hill, while posting a batting average of .366 with 34 runs, 34 RBIs, four home runs, and 11 steals as a hitter. For his performance, Horvat was chosen as the PAC Newcomer of the Year and All-PAC First-Team, and he was also honored as the PAC Tournament Most Outstanding Player. Additionally, Horvat was selected as a D3Baseball.com All-American First-Team and an ABCA/Rawlings All-American Second-Team, both as a utility player. The Presidents, meanwhile, went 37-3, including 25-1 in the PAC. In the conference tournament, W&J defeated Saint Vincent College 7-1, edged Grove City College 1-0, and bested the Bearcats again 3-0 to win the PAC crown. In the NCAA Division III Regional, Washington & Jefferson defeated Marymount, but lost twice against Birmingham-Southern to conclude the season.
Last year, Horvat went 8-1 on the bump, posting an ERA of 2.13 in 67.2 innings of work. At the plate, he compiled a .445 average with 38 runs, 30 RBIs, and 21 stolen bases. He continued to garner accolades, as he was selected All-PAC First-Team, and D3baseball.com All-American Fifth-Team as a utility. Washington & Jefferson produced another banner season, going 37-10 overall, including 25-2 in the PAC. In the conference tournament, the Presidents repeated as champions, outlasting Westminster College 10-9 in 11 innings, edging Grove City 5-4, and defeating the Titans again, 10-2. In the NCAA DIII Regional, the Presidents bested Lebanon Valley and Mitchell, but lost twice to Rowan.
To this point of the 2023 campaign, Horvat has registered a record of 7-2 on the hill with a 2.60 ERA in 52 innings. As a hitter, he carries a hefty .380 average with 26 runs, 11 RBIs, and nine stolen bases. Collectively, W&J is 16-9, including 7-1 in the conference ledger.
Tyler set aside time from his hectic schedule to field questions about the biggest challenges of being both a pitcher and a position player, his most enjoyable college classes, and his reaction to the new MLB rules this season.
Q: You lead the team in several offensive and pitching categories. How have you evaluated your season to this point?
A: I would say that it has been a solid start to the season for myself. I am happy with my performance on both sides of the ball thus far. We scheduled a great slate of really good opponents this year, and I think that I have produced at a solid rate given the quality of competition we’ve seen. I would like to improve upon my batting average and ERA, as well as steal some more bases over the rest of the season.
Q: What are the biggest challenges of being both a position player and pitcher?
A: I think the biggest challenge is fitness. A lot of times, I finish an inning on the mound and then lead off the inning for us or go directly from the basepaths back on the mound, so there is constant movement. There is not really a lot of time to sit down and rest, so I would say that is probably the biggest challenge in doing both at the same time.
Q: Which pitches do you throw, and which do you consider your "out pitch"?
A: I currently throw a fastball, curveball, and changeup. I am pretty comfortable throwing any of my pitches in any count and situation, but I would probably say my “go-to” would be the curveball. There is nothing more satisfying than getting a hitter out in a hitter’s count with a well-executed curveball that they did not expect.
Q: The Presidents have enjoyed great team success during your time, winning consecutive PAC titles. What are the biggest keys to that run?
A: I have been extremely fortunate to be part of some really good teams during my time here at W&J. The biggest characteristic for all teams I have been on here is team chemistry. We have really developed a family atmosphere here, which allows us to come together when we face adversity and come out on top. That, and just the overall competitive nature that has been prevalent day in and day out with guys. It has been amazing to work every day with guys who share a vision of wanting to win and just figuring out ways to get it done.
Q: What goals did you set for yourself and the team in 2023?
A: For the team, I set out every year to win the World Series. This program has been there several times and just fallen short, so we know we are capable, and I would love to be part of the team that finally brings home a ring. Individually, I just wanted to be able to stay healthy throughout the whole year and be able to contribute in any way that I can.
Q: What led to your decision to attend W&J?
A: Coming out of high school, I wanted an opportunity to be able to play both ways at a winning program and receive a good education. Coach Mountain reached out to me and said that if I proved I could hit enough at the college level, then I would have every opportunity to continue playing both ways. His winning percentage and pedigree speak for themselves, so when offering that opportunity and the school having a strong academic reputation, W&J just made a lot of sense.
Q: What is your major, and ideal future profession?
A: My major is in finance, with minors in accounting and economics. Ideally in the future, I can be an executive of some sort in corporate finance. I think it would be really cool to work in the banking sector.
Q: What has been your most enjoyable college class?
A: That is a tough one. The three classes that really stick out to me have been my finance capstone, business tax, and sports economics. They also happen to be taught by my three favorite professors who I have had here in Dr. Park, Professor Allen, and Dr. Dunn. If I had to pick just one though, I would probably go with business tax, just because it was incredibly interesting to see all the ways corporations can legally lower the amount of taxes they pay.
Q: What was your fondest high school memory at Penn-Trafford?
A: Another tough question. I am going to go with the semifinal game against North Allegheny my senior year where we won to advance to the WPIAL title game. The seniors on the team that year were incredible and some of my best friends, so being able to win that one was just pure joy. Falling short in the title game was a tough pill to swallow, but we put Penn-Trafford baseball back where it belongs.
Q: What were the best qualities of your high school coach, Dan Miller?
A: Coach Miller was really big into having pride about the little things like field maintenance. That has definitely followed me here at W&J, where even with the full turf field, there is maintenance that has to be done to keep our facility as nice as it is. I credit Coach Miller for instilling that habit into me during high school.
Q: If you could face any pitcher, past or present, who would you choose? What would be the result?
A: That is a great question. From the past, I would have to say Pedro Martinez. That guy was just an animal and had so many different ways he could beat you. His changeup was legendary and a great weapon against left-handed hitters like myself. I have never been one to back down from a challenge though, so I think I could at least put the ball in play, maybe squeeze one through the infield for a base hit. For current pitchers, I would definitely choose Jacob deGrom or Shohei Ohtani.
Q: What is your reaction to the new MLB rules this season?
A: I am kind of split about the new rules, honestly. I am happy that base hits and steals are coming back with the shift rules, but I also would have just liked to see hitters make adjustments and go back to being able to hit the ball the other way rather than prioritize swinging for the fences. I absolutely love the pitch clock, though. There is no good reason for a baseball game to average over three hours. Pitchers and hitters do not need all the extra downtime. Get on the mound, get in the box, and go to work.
Q: Do you have any superstitions or rituals before, during, or after a game?
A: I am a pretty superstitious guy, so I like doing things in an exact order every game. I always tape my cleats before games to avoid tripping on the laces and keep my cleats tight the whole game. In pre-game batting practice, my last swing always has to be a hit so I can think in my head that I am 1 for 1 going into the box for my first at bat. When it is my turn to pitch, I am one of those guys who likes to sit by myself at the end of the bench and not really converse with anyone. I like to stay locked in on what I need to do.
Q: Who is your celebrity dream date?
A: Jennifer Aniston, without question. I have had a huge crush on her since I was a kid and she still looks as good as ever. That is also one I have not been really secretive about, so anybody who knows me would be able to say the same thing.
Q: If you woke up tomorrow with $1 million, what is the first thing you'd do?
A: Pretty boring, but pay off all my student loans so I did not have those to worry about. Then, I would probably take a couple friends on a week trip to Nashville. The vast majority of it though, I would save and invest. That probably comes from my finance education.