Tyler Pastornicky is one of those baseball players who was born to play the game. The son of a former major leaguer who later coached in the Midwest League, the current Lansing Lugnuts shortstop grew up at the ballpark.
But it took a summer break from the game for him to realize the match was meant to be. Pastornicky had become tired of nonstop baseball and decided to slow down the summer after his freshman year of high school.
"I was baseballed out," he said.
Pastornicky only played in select tournaments, but he also began lifting weights. By his sophomore year, he was ready to jump back in fully.
"I came back sophomore year and my arm was better, I was better," he said. "I came back, and the game was a lot easier."
His father, Cliff Pastornicky said with the weather in their home state of Florida, baseball is a non-stop activity.
"There comes a time when you need a little of a break," said Cliff, who played with the Kansas City Royals in 1983. "Baseball is year-round here, and there's tournament after tournament. You can find a game on Christmas Day if you want to. He played for so many seasons in a row, it was time for a mental break to really get strong.
"That only adds to the hunger for the game. If you play every day, then as much as you don't want to, you go through the motions."
Developing his game
As a sophomore, Tyler moved up to the varsity team at the IMG Academy's IMG Academy School in Bradenton, Fla., and he hit .386 with 28 RBI and 26 steals.
"I was a late bloomer," he said. "I really was better sophomore year, and I decided I really wanted to play baseball and knew I could."
Pastornicky finished high school as a star, hitting .470 as a junior and .506 with six home runs, six triples, six doubles and 27 steals on 28 attempts as a senior. He signed to play at Florida State but turned pro when he signed with Toronto after the Blue Jays picked him in the fifth round of last year's draft.
Now, the 19-year-old is the everyday shortstop for Lansing. He is hitting .269 with 34 steals, 29 walks, 19 RBI, six doubles and four triples.
Lansing manager Clayton McCullough called Pastornicky a "catalyst" on the team.
"From Day 1, he's hit first or second in the lineup, and he doesn't get a lot of days off, but he always likes coming to the ball park and playing," McCullough said. "He really likes playing baseball and working at it. Everything that comes with it, he's into."
He hit .263 and stole 27 bases in rookie ball after signing, but then began this season in Lansing with a slow start.
"I was pressing in the beginning," he said. "I sat down and talked with Clayton and (hitting coach Justin Mashore), and they calmed me down, told me I was good enough to play here and helped me get through it. It's definitely gotten better since then."
In rookie ball, he began playing alongside Justin McClanahan. McClanahan only played eight games at second base with Auburn, but the two felt a chemistry together on the field.
"We work well together," McClanahan said. "He's a good shortstop and when we came (to Lansing), we just picked up right away."
A baseball family
Pastornicky not only grew up with his dad to look to for baseball guidance, his grandfather, Ernie Pastornicky, went 40-1 as a pitcher at Seattle University in the 1950s and pitched in the minors. He was inducted into the university's athletic hall of fame in 2008.
Pastornicky also tagged along when dad worked as a hitting coach in the Royals organization with the Midwest League's Rockford (Ill.) Royals in 1994.
"Even though he was young, he was around the ball park and saw what these guys were doing, day in and day out," Cliff Pastornicky said.
"Everyone thinks these guys just show up and play, but they're on the field three, four hours before every game working at it. He got a chance to see that. And he was on the bus with Mike Sweeney and Sal Fasano."
Cliff Pastornicky later worked as a scout for the Royals and signed major leaguers Zach Greinke, Billy Butler, Mark Ellis, Shawn Estes and Kiko Calero, among others.
Tyler said he appreciates the benefit of having a coach, scout and player for a dad.
"He's been able to tell me a lot of little things that really help me as a player," he said. "He's been through everything I'm facing and really helps."