The reason Dylan Tice believes he was drafted can be traced back to his childhood.
Tice was about 3 or 4 years old when he first picked up a bat, gripping it left-handed and swinging it right-handed. His father saw his potential to be a switch-hitter and made two deals with him to develop that ability throughout his youth.
Part of their year-round routine was built on a deal to strengthen his left-handed swing: Tice always had to start and finish hitting left-handed, ensuring he took 10 more swings from his weak side. Their other deal: If Tice hit left-handed once a game, his father would buy him a pack of baseball cards.
“He kind of forced it on me at a young age and thank God he did because I probably don’t get drafted if I’m just a right-handed hitter,” Tice said.
The native of Perkasie, north of Philadelphia, is in his second professional season, hitting .267 in 10 games for the State College Spikes. He’s hit for a better average from his dominant side, going 17 for 49 (.347) as a right-handed hitter versus 43 for 169 (.254) as a left-handed hitter in his pro career going into Saturday.
But he’s hit four of his five career home runs from the left side.
“He is as good from both sides of the plate,” Spikes manager Johnny Rodriguez said. “He’s one of those rare switch-hitters.”
Barry Tice, his father, always wanted to switch-hit, but he could never do it.
He knew it was an advantage from his playing days, noting the pressure left-handed hitters put on him as a middle infielder because they could get down the line faster and pointing out that switch-hitters never see a curveball breaking away from them.
So when his son first picked up that bat, gripped it the wrong way and said his swing felt good, Barry knew Dylan could be a switch-hitter.
Barry flipped Dylan wiffle balls and Nerf balls underhand as part of their routine in the family’s sunroom. Ten swings, left-handed. Ten swings, right-handed. Start and finish on the left side.
That was the deal.
One day, Dylan just wanted to hit right-handed.
“I said I wouldn’t throw to him and he threw a tantrum,” Barry Tice said. “But I wouldn’t throw. I got stubborn and he went in to his mom and of course, she came out and gave me a riot act.
“But I just told her, ‘A deal’s a deal.’ He made the deal and that’s how we’re going to do it.”
There was some bribery involved in getting his son to stick with switch-hitting.
Barry Tice got baseball cards from the Quakertown Farmers Market — known as the “Qmart” — to give out to the kids on his Little League teams.
“If they got a Yankees card or a Mets card, they got an extra card because I always said the Mets and the Yankees weren’t real ballplayers,” he said. “So I got to instill a lot of good stuff in ‘em. Right away, I taught ‘em to hate the Yankees and Mets and just like the Phillies.”
Baseball cards became an incentive for Dylan.
When he was 7 or 8, he agreed to bat from his weak side once a game for a pack of cards.
“I have like 2 or 3,000 baseball cards at home because I got obsessed with that,” Dylan said. “So I’d bat lefty once a game just so he’d get me my baseball cards and that kind of made me get good at it.”
By the time he was 13 years old, Dylan fully committed to switch-hitting.
It took about two years until he could turn on balls and hit naturally as a lefty.
He still needs to devote more time to his weaker side.
“I can skip a day or two of (batting practice) right-handed and still feel OK,” said Dylan, who was the St. Louis Cardinals’ 36th-round draft pick in 2015. “But lefty if I miss a day of BP or I don’t work on it one day, I kind of feel lost the next day.”
Tice’s ability to switch-hit was one of the reasons Rodriguez requested Tice be on the State College roster.
The assignment brought him back to his home state, where he played in college at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and West Chester University.
His family can see him play again after following his first pro season in the Gulf Coast League online. His father saw his fourth game Friday and plans to make the trip to Medlar Field at Lubrano Park every weekend.
The drive usually takes him three hours and 15 minutes.
“If he’s hitting leadoff, I can make it in three hours,” Barry Tice said.
Dylan was hitting second in the lineup against Brooklyn last Wednesday.
In the bottom of the first inning, hitting from the left side, he pulled a 2-2 pitch into the right-field bleachers for his first home run of the season.
As Dylan walked down the dugout steps after rounding the bases, he pointed to his father and brother in the crowd.