Nevada pitcher Tyler Wells stretches during a rehab session. Wells is redshirting this season while recovering from elbow surgery.

By Nicole Skow

Nevada pitcher Tyler Wells sat in the locker room at Charlotte Sports Park, the training facility in Port Charlotte, Florida for the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays drafted Wells and fulfilled his life-long dream of playing professional baseball five days prior on June 7. Instead of practicing with his future teammates he was waiting for news from the MRI he had two days earlier.

Wells wrung his hands and watched R.J. Harrison, director of scouting for the Rays, speak with the sports medicine trainer with a DVD in hand. In the next moment, Harrison turned from the trainer and headed for Wells.

“Uh oh, this isn’t good,” Wells said to himself.

Harrison stopped in front of Wells and looked at the future investment.

“Are you Tyler Wells?” he said.

Wells nodded.

“Come here,” Harrison said. “I have to talk to you, buddy.”

“Hopefully this is good news,” Wells said, laughing nervously.

“I wish it was,” Harrison said.


A 3-year-old Wells stood at the top of the stairs of his home and stared down John, his father. John Wells tossed a golf ball to his oldest son. It never dawned on him that if his son reached too far he would tumble down the stairs. It wasn’t until Sue, Wells’ mother, got mad at her husband that these antics ended. John Wells saw the potential in him early.

“He was like 4 years old and you could just tell,” John Wells said. “He always had a beautiful swing and he could always catch a ball. Actually I could tell when he was one-year-old on how he swung. He could catch a golf ball. He could just barely walk and he could catch a ball thrown to him. He’s always had good eye-hand coordination, phenomenal. He’s a good hitter, a great hitter.”

Wells knew at 5 years old that he wanted to play professional ball. However, his dream didn’t seem attainable until his senior year at Maxwell High School in Maxwell, California — an hour northwest of Sacramento.


Coming from a town with a population just above a thousand, Wells had to look elsewhere for sports team. The nearest was the Sacramento River Cats (the minor league affiliate of the San Francisco Giants), Oakland Athletics and Giants themselves.

Wells latched onto the Giants and idolized Barry Bonds growing up. At an early age, John and Sue Wells took their sons to a Giants game at Candlestick Park. The family sat five rows from left field and roughly 30 yards away from Bonds. The boys couldn’t handle their excitement and they started chanting Bonds’ name. Bonds turned around, smiled and waved at the two kids.

Wells didn’t have enough exposure to big-time scouts since he came from a small town. Greg Wells, John Wells’ cousin, faced the same issue when he was in high school. Greg Wells ended up playing baseball at a junior college then transferring to Arizona. He didn’t want Wells to go through the same process he did, especially with Wells’ talent and academic grades.

“I saw Tyler play once in high school, but every single time Tyler played, his dad and my cousin were there,” Greg Wells said. “My parents were there. Nine family members were telling me how amazing and how much better than me he was. I really didn’t have to see him to know how good he was.”

Greg Wells made a call to his friend and former Nevada coach Buddy Gouldsmith, who is now a scout for the Kansas City Royals. He recommended that Gouldsmith watch Wells play. Gouldsmith was scouting in Northern California around the same time Wells was playing in Sacramento for the high

school section championships. Gouldsmith attended the game and knew after three innings that he wanted Wells to pitch at Nevada. He called Greg Wells to deliver the good news.

“You should take up scouting,” Gouldsmith said. “I want Tyler to play at Nevada.”

Greg Wells passed John Wells’ number along to Gouldmith. Gouldsmith gave John Wells a call, and they set up a tryout for him. Wells not only impressed Gouldsmith but also Gary Powers, then head baseball coach of Nevada. Powers saw that he had the tools and potential to develop into a great player.

“He had a good body frame and he had good arm action and mechanics were pretty solid,” Powers said. “The one thing he could do was throw strikes. He could locate his pitches very well for a young kid. Once he got developed and got bigger and stronger that he would just continue to grow and be better.”

Wells turned down an offer from University of California, Davis and agreed to be a preferred walk-on at Nevada. Wells was more than ready to begin his journey at Nevada. He knew this would give him a chance to improve in his hunt to fulfill his dream of playing professionally.

“Coming from such as small town, nobody ever really goes on to play at a Division I, let alone a JC,” Wells said. “It’s just a lot of pride. All the hard work I put into my whole life finally came to fruition.”



Wells’ discomfort in his left shoulder began months before the start of the regular 2014 season. He felt fine during fall ball, but one day during winter break he and John Wells were playing catch at home when he felt a knot in his shoulder. He shut it down and didn’t throw for the rest of the break.

Wells stared down Stephen Ventimilia, Hawaii’s junior infielder and the first hitter of the game on March 18. Wells threw the ball down the strike zone, but Ventimilia moved faster. He hit the ball and singled. Ventimilia stole second and advanced to third after a wild pitch from Wells. Kaeo Aliviado, Hawaii’s red-shirt senior outfielder, grounded out and brought Ventimilia home. Ventimilia’s run would be the only run scored the entire game as the Wolf Pack went on to lose that game 1-0.

Wells pitched the whole game and ignored the feeling in his shoulder. Dave Lawn, Nevada’s pitching coach, pulled Wells to the side each time Wells stepped onto the field, Lawn leaned over and encouraged Wells.

“Keep going,” Lawn said. “We need you.”

Lawn’s words echoed Wells’ feelings throughout the entire season. The pain in Wells’ shoulder wasn’t overwhelming, but the soreness wouldn’t fade. However, the muscle hurt if it was touched. Wells knew that he should have told Lawn since Lawn’s rule was if it’s small you better let him know. Wells pitched through it and opted not to have it checked it out.

“I wanted to be the best I could be for the whole University of Nevada program,” Wells said. “I didn’t want to disappoint.”


The MLB Draft arrived on June 5 along with Wells’ anticipation. He sat with his close friends and family, but he knew in his gut that he wouldn’t get the call that day.

The second day opened, and he watched as the Washington Nationals drafted Alex Byler, a first baseman, in the ninth round. The second day may have closed, but the San Diego Padres called Wells. The organization offered $25,000, but Wells wanted more. He turned the Padres down and decided to test his luck on the third day.

The draft continued on the third day, but Wells played FIFA 2014 on Xbox 360 with Scott Wells, his brother, completely oblivious to everything except the video game in front of him. While he played Xbox, Jordan Dunatov and Colby Blueberg, two Nevada pitchers, were drafted in the 12th and 24th rounds. The Cleveland Indians took Dunatov, and the Padres picked up Blueberg.

Wells took a break from his game and set his controller aside to grab his phone. A text from Gouldsmith, the former coach at Nevada who recruited Wells, sat in Wells’ inbox.

“Congratulations on being drafted,” Gouldsmith said.

Gouldsmith’s message opened the floodgates of text messages. Messages from his teammates, friends and family filled his phone and Wells couldn’t keep up. Then Brian Morrison, the Tampa Bay Rays’ area scout, called Wells to talk business.

“Congratulations, you got drafted in the 25th round,” Morrison said. “Your advisor and I are working on a contract. What number are you looking for?”

“I was thinking $50,000,” Wells said.

Wells met with Morrison on June 8. Morrison informed Wells that he would depart for Port Charlotte in two days with a 5 a.m. flight. Wells believed he was mentally ready for professional baseball. His childhood dream was an arms’ length away and he was ready to take it. Everything he worked for awaited him in Florida.

“As a pitcher you just want to get going,” Wells said. “As a hitter you can refine all these things, but your arm is just going to get a year older, a year of more use. You might as well get going and get going early. I believe I was actually ready mentally for it. I was looking forward to it. I felt I was ready to go.”


In his three-year career at Nevada, Tyer Wells has an ERA average of 5.12. His 2012 freshman year was the worst as he allowed 6.42 runs on average and aggravated a previous injury in his elbow. Wells started to have elbow problems during his sophomore year of high school. He would pitch during the spring and rest during the summer.

Discomfort returned to his elbow in 2012, but Wells pitched through it. The pain grew as the season went on until he was unable to throw by the end of the season. He ended up having a bone spur in his elbow and had to have surgery to remove it.

“He knew he wasn’t healthy, but he tried to hide it,” former Nevada head coach Gary Powers said. “He tried to have it hidden. He tried to work through it because he’s so competitive. It’s an unfortunate thing, but it’s another part of his learning development. He’s going to be able to take that and grow from it and know how to handle that in the future.”

Two years later Wells would be set back by an injury again, this time by his rotator cuff.

But Wells had too much riding on this year. He was eligible for the draft and everything depended on whether or not he played well during the season. On top of wanting to perform well for himself and Nevada’s program, scouts from Blue Jays, Texas Rangers and the Arizona Diamondbacks visited him during winter break. The pressure compounded and pushed him to keep fighting the injury instead of taking a few days off to rest.

“I kind of got too into the draft year, and I kind of pressed a little bit,” Wells said. “I didn’t let things come to me. I tried to make it happen. If I had to do it over again, I would definitely change that.”

Wells spent the last month of the season sidelined starting on May 2. He couldn’t even touch a ball. All he could do was watch his teammates fight for the top spot in the Mountain West Conference while he cheered them on. The injury ripped away the one thing that he loved more than anything and left him to reflect.

“It’s scary, definitely scary,” Wells said. “It’s just weird. Every day you go out and throw, hanging out with the guys and all of a sudden you just can’t throw after 15-16 years of throwing.”


Wells arrived in Port Charlotte on June 9. He didn’t know what to expect, but nerves and excitement were coursing through his veins. He entered the Charlotte Sports Park unsure what to expect but came away wanting more.

“It gave me a little taste, like a cup of coffee I would say, of what’s it’s like,” Wells said. “It definitely gives me the drive to get back there someday.”

The future investments were thrust into a world of baseball. They woke up at 5 a.m. to be at the field by 5:45 a.m. and didn’t leave the park until the evening. They spent all day playing baseball, working out and going over different defensive schemes.

Each player underwent a physical, and Wells went in for his on the second day he was there. The medical staff didn’t leave anything unexamined. The trainers checked body fat, heart rate, lung capacity and flexibility. Wells passed with flying colors until the doctor reached the flexibility test. His goal was to get through each part of the exam without bringing up the discomfort in his shoulder, but the flexibility portion of the physical would be his downfall.

The doctor asked Wells to extend his arms to the side and he pressed down. Wells wasn’t supposed to let his arms cave under the pressure, but something didn’t feel right in his left shoulder. Something felt wrong and the doctor noticed Wells’ inability to push back. He shut Wells down, and the Rays forced him to stay in the locker-room for two days.


R.J. Harrison, director of scouting for the Tampa Rays, broke the news to Wells that his MRI pointed to signs of a torn rotator cuff but the medical staff wasn’t 100 percent sure. Wells’ heart fell. His injury snatched the dream of going pro from his hands. His dream had been dangled in front of him like a carrot, and now it was gone for at least another two years.

“We were high on you,” Harrison told Wells. “We thought you could make it. This is just going to be a roadblock. You have to keep working hard. The number one thing is to get healthy. You never know what could happen. You’ll get your chance.”

Harrison left Wells alone to his thoughts. Wells made the trip out to Port Charlotte by himself. His whole support system waited for him on the West Coast. Now he would make the trip back to Maxwell, disappointed, but ready to move on. Wells knew one thing for sure: He would be returning to Nevada in the fall.

After Harrison broke the news to Wells, Wells called John Wells to break the news. His father didn’t baby him but pushed him to move past the obstacle in the road.

“It’s not the end of the world,” John Wells said. “Come home. Get things squared away. Always look for the positive. Don’t feel sorry for yourself.”


Wells returned home and spent the rest of the summer nursing his rotator cuff. He stayed in contact with multiple teammates, including Austin Byler. Throughout the draft process, Byler and Wells had discussed what they were looking for money-wise from their teams and rejoiced in the excitement at the chances of being able to play against each other someday at a more competitive level than inter-squad play.

When Wells broke the news of his torn rotator cuff to Byler, Byler offered sympathetic words. Byler had gone through nine months of physical therapy after he partially tore his rotator cuff when he was 13 years old.

“Use this year to get better,” Byler said. “You have to take care of your arm. Get it healthy. Get it stronger than it has ever been. Come back and prove why you’re the pitcher that got drafted.”

July 15, the deadline to sign with an MLB team, came and went along with Wells’ dream. However, he wasn’t the only one who decided to stay for another year at Nevada. Byler elected to come back for his final year while Dunatov and Blueberg signed with their teams.

“We both think that this is an opportunity to get better, an opportunity to improve mentally and physically and just have one more year of with the team,” Byler said. “You don’t ever get this experience back and I think that was a big thing for both of us, the college experience, college baseball and postponing real life and enjoying all the little things here.”


The bright morning sun peaks over the hills in the distance. Wells rounds home plate for the eighth time to start on the final lap of his 2-mile run. His breath puffs into the crisp Nevada air while his feet strike the track of William Peccole Park. His body goes into autopilot as his mind reflects on the events of the summer for a brief moment. He shakes his head as if he can physically rid his mind of the negative thoughts. He does not want to dwell on the past and instead focus on the future that awaits him.

“I’ve always thought everything happens for a reason and I believe this will be a good thing in the end,” Wells said. “I’m going to come back stronger and better than ever. I get to be at Nevada one more year. I love it here.”

Wells and Mark Nowaczewski, sophomore pitcher who underwent a Tommy John surgery earlier this summer, run every day in preparation for the Manda Run 5k and Half Marathon that will take place on Nov. 23 in Auburn, California. Running is only one aspect of recovery. Wells also works on strengthening his core, scapula and his hips as part of a full-body rehabilitation. AJ Coronado, an intern with Nevada’s sports medicine who works primarily with baseball, works with Wells and Nowaczewski to guide them in their physical therapy.

“Especially as a pitcher, it’s important that your core and your hips are strong,” Coronado said. “That’s where you generate your momentum and your force. Your arm is really just an extension of your body.”

Wells will redshirt this year while completing his rehabilitation. His dreams aren’t crushed but rather derailed. Not only does he know but Powers knows that in order to be successful Wells must use these next two years to become healthy and return stronger than ever. Some people might say that Wells’ window to the pros is shrinking since he will be in college for another two years, but Powers doesn’t see it like that.

“It’s only taken from him if it plays out like that in the next two years,” Powers said. “I just think that he has to use that as a motivating force to try to rehab properly and get back to where he was so he can give himself another chance. Now all he needs is to be seen. It depends on how he handles it from here on out.

“I have confidence that he’ll figure it out. There are tons of people who have played this game that have gone through that have overcome it. I can’t see why he can’t be one of those guys, but that’s all up to him. It remains to be seen.”

Nicole Skow can be reached at