ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves are playing in their first World Series in 22 years thanks in part to the dominant pitching from Tyler Matzek.
But the lefty reliever almost didn’t make it to this stage in his career. That is what makes his journey to the mound more inspiring.
Matzek went from being a first round draft pick and top pitching prospect to dealing with a severe form of anxiety that left him struggling to pitch.
“I was there when Tyler broke in,” Walt Weiss said. “And he made a big splash right away.”
Weiss was Matzek’s first MLB manager for the Colorado Rockies, and now works as the Braves bench coach. The Rockies drafted Matzek 11th overall in 2009.
“I remember his debut as a starter at Coors Field - toughest park in the league to pitch in - he went out and had an unbelievable debut and carried that for a few few starts in his career. But then went through all his issues,” Weiss told Channel 2 sports anchor Alison Mastrangelo.
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The issues Weiss is referring to is known as the yips, a severe form of performance anxiety.
The yips prevented Matzek from pitching with the control and confidence he once had, which led to him being cut in 2016.
“When he went through the yips, it was probably one of the toughest times, to see your son struggle so bad,” said Matzek’s mom, Kathy Briney.
“Knowing how good he was in high school, and seeing him crash like that so hard, it’s probably the hardest thing as a mom you can experience because there’s nothing you can do for him.”
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His mom said he even thought about quitting baseball.
“His love was to be an emergency room doctor, so he talked about quitting baseball and pursuing his dream instead of his talent,” she said.
Matzek’s wife, Lauren, convinced to keep going, and he started playing independent baseball until a pitching coach saw his potential and helped him get back to the big leagues.
The Braves signed Matzek in 2019 and assigned him to the Mississippi Braves. Two years later, he is now playing on the biggest stage in baseball.
Matzek’s mom and step-dad could not be more proud of the 360 degree difference in their son.
“It’s overwhelming with joy to see him succeeding and so happy and so confident compared to where he was,” Briney said.
His parents said they never miss a game, even though they live in southern California. If they’re out at dinner, they’ll pull out an iPad to watch him.
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