Tyler Gentry will always have some lingering questions about the spring of 2020. He is not alone in wondering just how good he — and the University of Alabama baseball team — would have been.
The little baseball there was in the spring of 2020 was enough to give Gentry an advantageous start to his professional career.
Gentry was drafted in the third round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the Kansas City Royals earlier this month. Gentry has signed with the Royals, ending his UA career to start his professional career whenever minor league baseball returns after the coronavirus pandemic.
“I would love to have seen how high I could’ve maintained that average and how many home runs I could have hit,” Gentry said. “I really felt like it wasn’t a flash in the pan. I feel like I could’ve maintained that high of performance throughout the year.”
When the season ended after just 17 games, Gentry was hitting .429 and slugging .750 with six doubles and four home runs. It was a continuation of his finish in 2019, when he got at least one hit in all of his last 14 SEC games — multiple hits in five of them — and raised his batting average 13 points in the final seven games of the season.
The result of that production was opposing pitchers giving him more breaking pitches early in at-bats. It was something Gentry and assistant coach Jerry Zulli worked on one the offseason, expecting more of it to come. Gentry thought he saw the fruits of that labor early, with three or his four home runs coming on offspeed pitches.
“There will always be a part of me that’s upset about that, especially this season. We were all really excited to see what we would do in the later part of the year, especially in the postseason,” Gentry said. “That was one of the most painful moments of my life, being told the season was over.”
Gentry didn’t have much time to mourn the season lost. He was viewed as an attractive right-handed hitting prospect in the 2021 draft before the season began, so starting the season as hot as he did thrust him into the heat of a draft process heavily altered by the pandemic.
“It was a lot of phone calls, a lot of Zoom interviews with teams and a lot of questions ion the same stuff, trying to figure out who you are as a person Me being a hitter, what my approach would be like at the plate, stuff like that,” Gentry said. “I think they had a good gauge of who I was as a baseball player, they were just trying to figure me out as a person.”
The end of that process is also the end of Gentry’s two-year stint at UA, coming to Tuscaloosa out of Wallace State Community College. The Arlington, Tennessee, native ends his UA career with a .335 batting average and 18 doubles and 17 home runs in 73 games.
Gentry was sold on UA when he could sense head coach Brad Bohannon’s belief in Gentry and his own plan for the future of UA baseball, plus the perks of being relatively close to home and a member of the best baseball conference in the nation. He leaves with more than the coaching staff’s faith and competitive experience.
“Complete gratitude,” Gentry said. “I guess a year and a half, almost two years of the best years of my life. Really thankful for all the coaches that believed in me and worked with me, all the players that were supportive and great teammates. It made the whole experience really fun, because of them.”