University of Central Arkansas redshirt sophomore Tyler Cleveland was selected by the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday in the 14th round (426th pick) of the Major League Baseball amateur draft.
While no contract has been signed, Cleveland plans to forgo his remaining eligibility and sign with Seattle for close to the maximum slot value of $125,000.
Cleveland was the 2022 ASUN Conference Pitcher of the Year, tallying a 7-2 record with 101 strikeouts in 951/3 innings along with a 2.93 ERA. He led the conference in wins and strikeouts. Cleveland was also the Southland Conference Relief Pitcher of the Year in 2021.
With his unorthodox mechanics and low release point, changes he made prior to the 2020 season, Cleveland said he envisions himself in some kind of relief role with the Mariners.
"I think changing arm slots made me who I am," Cleveland said. "If I was over the top I don't think I would be [where I am]. Me being a sidearm, submarine type ... I'm not like every guy, every pitcher in the draft. There are very few [sidearm pitchers] in organizations."
The East End native and Sheridan graduate is the seventh UCA player, the fifth pitcher, drafted since 2018.
With pitching coach turned head coach Nick Harlan in charge, UCA has seen success producing pitchers like Gavin Stone and Noah Cameron.
"Being around those people like Gavin Stone, Noah Cameron, Cody Davenport ... I still talk to those people daily," Cleveland said. They reached out to me today. It's a close family. So for me to be the next one, it's just another step in the right direction."
Before the draft, Cleveland was in contact with a half-dozen teams with interest in the 6-3, 185-pound right-hander -- something he made sure not to take for granted.
"I've always loved the game of baseball, loved to travel and loved winning things," Cleveland said. "I've kind of built that upon myself like, [to] just be a winner in everything I do and compete. [As] you grow up you want to get to the major leagues, and then when you get a little older adversity hits you a little bit harder. Only a select few get that, and all it takes is a couple of good years like I had [and] it turned into a real reality."
The Arkansas Travelers, Seattle's Class AA affiliate, is an early goal for Cleveland who would relish the opportunity to play at home again.
"I've been watching the Travelers for a while, I still go to games now, so that would be a great step because my family and myself live 20 minutes from Dickey-Stephens [Park]," Cleveland said. "It would be a great step in the process."