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From Top Prospect to Indy Ball and Back: Inside Tyler Jay’s Remarkable Big League Comeback

“They get to know that Dad never quit.”

Chronicling Tyler Jay's MLB comeback story with the New York Mets Mag

Most don’t make it this far. Especially after going through what he did. 

But Tyler Jay did it, against all odds – when sports might have fallen off the map for others.

A reporter asked him if he ever doubted this would happen.

“Man, probably from 2019 on…maybe about every day,” he said.

“Every night you go to bed, you’re thinking, ‘Man, is this worth it?’ and then every day you just get up and continue to grind.”

But now, the recent father of twin daughters has a pretty cool story to tell his kids when they grow up.

“They get to know that Dad never quit,” he said. 

How does a first-round MLB draft pick end up toiling in the minors and landing in the Indy leagues a few years later?

Tyler Jay’s journey goes beyond the baseball diamond.

But it showcases his sheer perseverance as a human being to find success in the toughest of times.

His career started off like he hit the jackpot, being selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft by the Minnesota Twins.

Coming off a stellar college career with the Big Ten’s Fighting Illini, the sky was the limit for the Twins prospect.

In the minor leagues, he appeared as both a starting and relief pitcher. But a 2017 injury prevented him from locking down a consistent role.

He bounced around between Rookie ball and Double-A, making inconsistency one of the few consistent things in his life as a ballplayer.

But that’d be the smallest of Jay’s worries.

By 2019, Jay was not just fighting for his pro baseball career, but fighting for his life. 

The first symptom was difficulty swallowing. Then, he lost significant weight – directly correlated with declining performance on the mound.

After some time with no diagnosis, doctors finally told Jay that he had eosinophilic esophagitis (EOE), an allergic condition that narrows the esophagus and complicates the digestive process.

According to Mayo Clinic, it’s considered a “chronic relapsing disease, meaning that most people will require ongoing treatment to control their symptoms.”

So after a brief stint in the Cincinnati Reds’ system and a canceled minor league season in 2020, Tyler Jay was out of baseball.

For a former top-10 draft choice, that reality was difficult to accept.

Tyler Jay quote: "Every night you go to bed, you're thinking, 'Man, is this worth it?' and then every day you just get up and continue to grind."

Jay spent the next few years focusing on his health. He kept up a training regimen and did his best to stay in shape, believing an opportunity would come eventually.

He wasn’t sure with whom or how long it’d take, but he knew he belonged on an MLB mound.

2021 was spent away from baseball – regaining his health was his top priority.

But with his dream in mind, Jay sought a way back into playing pro baseball.  Even if it wasn’t the conventional route.

Jay’s father was friendly with the general manager of the Joliet Jammers, a Frontier League team located in Jay’s home state of Illinois.

A heart-to-heart conversation with manager Daniel Schlereth was all Jay needed to get back onto the mound again.

“Can I throw for you guys?” Jay asked him.

“Yeah, of course,” said Schlereth. “Anybody can.”

In his first season with the Jammers, Jay compiled a sub-2.00 ERA in 22 games.

The next season, he pitched to a 4.26 ERA with the same squad, and it was enough to earn his way back into organized baseball.

The New York Mets purchased his contract in August of 2023, and he spent the rest of that season with Triple-A Syracuse.

After eight strikeouts in six appearances with the Triple-A Mets, Jay was back in upstate New York to begin the 2024 campaign.

But his time in the minors didn’t last long. This time, he wasn’t out of baseball. He was out of Syracuse.

And heading to The Big Apple.

“I couldn’t talk,” Jay told after getting the call. “I was speechless.”

He made his major league debut on April 11th, 2024, pitching two innings of one-run ball against the high-powered Atlanta Braves offense.

At 29 years old, Jay was a baseball veteran in age, but a mere rookie when he stood 60 feet, 6 inches from the plate in Cobb County, Georgia.

Making his rise even more remarkable is that he wasn’t even on the Mets’ 40-man roster at the time, which means the team picked him over many other worthy arms already on their expanded roster set.

Some might call it luck, but for Jay, this was always the vision.

“It’s another example that nothing is easy in life,” said first-year Mets skipper Carlos Mendoza.

Two days later, Jay pitched another two innings, this time firing two scoreless innings against the Royals.

This time, Jay pitched to the hometown Citi Field crowd – another milestone in his young career.

Tyler Jay quote that says "They get to know that Dad never quit," next to a photo of him, his wife, and their newborn twin daughters.

But unfortunately, sometimes the best-laid plans go awry.

Another two days after he left Kansas City hitless at the plate, the reality set in that life is not always royal – even for big leaguers.

Jay was designated for assignment to make room for Michael Tonkin, and after clearing waivers, he landed back with the Syracuse Mets.

What happens after yet another trip to the minor leagues?

Ironically, Schlereth alluded to the unpredictability of pro baseball right after Jay got the call.

“I’m glad it’s working out,” the former Jammers and now-Western Michigan assistant coach said when Jay first arrived in Queens.

“I hope it works out for a while. You never know with these things – they can be up and designated [for assignment], or up and released, or whatever. But it’s just a really, really neat story. Just so deserved.”

Following his debut with the Mets, Jay posted a heart-warming series of photos to his Instagram account thanking those closest to him for supporting him all along.

“Thank you to all my family, friends, former teammates, and coaches who have reached out in support over the last couple of days. Love and appreciate you all.”

He gave a shoutout to his wife and to the Jammers team, who believed in him when most others did not.

But there’s one other person who believed in him that he didn’t specifically point out in his post that received hundreds of likes on social media.

Tyler Jay believed in himself.

And sometimes, that’s all you really need to beat the odds.


Written By

Muhlenberg College alum based in New York City. Bylines at Joker Mag, Elite Sports NY, and The Apple.



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