When Tyler Forner was 9 months old, his family moved from Vancouver to San Mateo, California. They relocated to Camas five years later, but have made several visits to the Bay Area since then. Those trips allowed Forner to attend several San Francisco Giants games and become a devoted fan of the Major League Baseball team.
“Every time we went (to Oracle Park), he would say, ‘This is such a neat place. I’m going to play here someday,” said Wade Forner, Tyler’s father.
That’s a bold proclamation, to be sure. But after signing a contract with the Giants in June, the recent Camas High School (CHS) graduate has put himself in a position to make good on that promise with a lot of hard work and a little good fortune.
“(Signing with the Giants) was definitely a dream come true,” Tyler said. “I’ve been a Giants fan basically my whole life.”
“Every time we went to that stadium, something magical happened,” Wade added. “The first time, we got a suite, and (radio station KNBR) took care of us. The next time, Tyler was allowed to go down on the field and sit in the dugout and meet people in the Giants’ front office. The next time we sat behind home plate to watch the Giants play the Cubs, who went on to win the World Series that year. Whenever he calls me, a photo of him taken when he was 12 at a Giants game pops up. He’s been a Giants fan for a long time, so when they showed interest, he kind of locked in on them. (Signing with the Giants) just made sense the whole time.”
Tyler received offers to play for highly regarded college programs such as Gonzaga University, the University of Portland and Seattle University, but told his father “probably about 100 times” that he was more interested in attending “the University of Major League Baseball.”
“I have always been drawn toward pro ball,” Tyler said. “I never really liked school, to be honest, so when I (determined) that going pro right out of high school would be an option for me, I knew that was the next step. I like the idea of going straight to the minor leagues and getting trained by professionals. I don’t want to get comfortable. I want to be put into an uncomfortable position, grind, get better and move up.”
Tyler was prepared to be selected in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft, held June 10-11. But the draft was shortened from its typical 40 rounds to five due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and he wasn’t chosen. Along with every other undrafted player, Tyler was declared a free agent, and able to sign with any organization for a maximum signing bonus of $20,000.
“I have a lot of confidence in myself,” Tyler said, “so I knew that if I could’ve played my senior year, my draft stock possibly could’ve been (elevated). Even without the senior year, I was told that there was a chance that I could be drafted. I knew the chances of that happening were super slim, but the Giants made it real clear that they wanted me.”
He was excited, but not surprised considering the fact that the Giants had shown interest in him for some time. Several Giants scouts watched him play at the 2019 Northwest Scout Games in Eugene, Oregon, where he earned most valuable player honors.
“Their cross-checker saw me play last summer at the Northwest Scout Games, and I did very well at that tournament,” Tyler said. “Their interest was sparked, and I kept communicating with them. There were a lot of unknowns, but they stayed in touch and walked me through the whole process.”
In a “normal” year, Tyler most likely would’ve been drafted, assigned to one of his organization’s minor league teams and began his pro career this summer. After the Minor League Baseball season was canceled due the pandemic, however, Tyler can’t do anything but wait for the Giants to decide what they want to do with him and the rest of their minor leaguers.
Forner hopes to visit the Giants’ spring training complex in Scottsdale, Arizona, at some point this summer, but has no set timeline for doing so; the complex is closed indefinitely for deep cleaning after recent virus outbreaks. Tyler has no idea what kind of competitive experience — if any — he’ll get this summer.
“Things are completely different this year,” he said. “I’ve heard some rumors, but (the situation) is a little unknown. I trust what God has in store and that everything will fall into place. I get to call baseball my job now, so I can wait here. I have no problem waiting for the call.”
Tyler’s talents have long been known in the Camas athletic community. At CHS he was a two-sport star, earning first-team all-4A Greater St. Helens League honors as an outfielder and all-state accolades as a linebacker in 2019.
“I’m more comfortable with the player that I am,” he said. “When I was younger, I focused on my speed and getting on base, but now I’m using my strength more to take the ball out of the yard and hit with more power. I’m using all of my tools instead of honing in on just one of them, and branching out and using them in different ways.”
And now he’ll have a chance to “branch out” even more as a professional. For the first time in his life, he’ll be able to focus on baseball year-round.
“Most Division-I athletes who are drafted spend 12 months out of the year playing baseball,” said Nik Lubisich, Forner’s coach for the Vancouver-based Northwest Futures academy. “He’s never given baseball his full attention, and that’s why he was largely an unknown commodity at the national level. He wasn’t participating in the big events like the Perfect Game and PBR. But now that baseball is his job, and he can give it his full attention, I think we’ll see spikes in the progression of his improvement.”
Tyler plays “a very aggressive style of baseball,” according to Papermakers coach Stephen Short. “He brings a football mentality to the baseball field, which is awesome.”
“He’s what I would call a game-wrecker,” Lubisich said. “He destroys a box score. He dominated the high school level, and I think he would’ve dominated college level. His speed/power combination is a rare thing to find. He’s got a lot to learn, but he’s got a lot of upside. He has a chance to be a complete stud. He’s a special talent.”
Tyler doesn’t define himself solely by his athletic accomplishments, however.
“A lot of people know what a great athlete he is, but people who don’t know he’s a great athlete will talk about the kind of character that he has,” Lubisich said. “He will be a leader in an organization. That’s one of the big reasons why the Giants fell in love with him. On the Zoom calls, (Giants executives) kept talking about his personality and confidence and character. Those things matter to them.”
They also love Forner’s intensity. During a Zoom call, Giants general manager Scott Harris told Forner that he watched a video of Forner hitting off a tee. ‘’He did a bat flip, turned to the camera and flexed,” Wade said. “(Harris) said, ‘I want that.’”
But in order to reach his potential, Tyler has had to learn to focus his emotions so they work for him instead of against him.
“There’s always been a fire inside of him,” Wade said. “He wants to compete and win and work hard all the time to get better. He’s driven. I’ve never had to encourage him to try harder. But one day Nik told me, ‘The thing that can make him great is also the same thing that could stop him from where he wants to go.’ He had to learn to keep that fire inside of him without showing it on the outside. (We told him that he had) to control his intensity, because it could show up as weaknesses or a (sign of) disrespect.”
Tyler has already attracted the attention of not only the Giants’ leaders, but baseball analysts and media members in the Bay Area. A recent headline on KNBR.com reads, “Giants might have a ‘steal’ in undrafted free agent Tyler Forner.”
And he’s already dreaming of making many more visits to Oracle Park in the future — as a player, not a fan.
“I wouldn’t put it past him to make it (to the major leagues),” Short said. “He doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. He’s a very religious person, puts his faith in God, has his own goals and is set on accomplishing them. He’ll be successful in whatever chooses to do, but if you ask him, there’s only one thing that he’s going to be doing as a professional — play baseball.”