Former Irvine Valley baseball standout Lucas Tancas was recently profiled in a story by Todd Murray in The Dominion Post.
Tancas, who went on to star at Long Beach State after IVC was taken in the 26th round of the Major League Baseball Draft last month by the Pittsburg Pirates and is now playing first base and outfield for the Class A West Virginia Black Bears. The full story is below.
BY TODD MURRAY
The Dominion Post
GRANVILLE — Lucas Tancas' journey to professional baseball in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization strains credulity.
Often times, even he can't comprehend it.
"If you had told me I'd be playing professional baseball a couple years ago, I probably wouldn't have believed you," said the West Virginia Black Bears first baseman-outfielder.
Tancas quit baseball after his junior season at Capistrano Valley High School, in Mission Viejo, Calif., opting to play football and wrestle his senior year.
"I was young and stupid," he said. "I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I had been playing baseball my whole life.
"I guess you could say I was burned out at that point. I really didn't have my priorities set."
He discovered he missed baseball and yearned to play in college, so he enrolled at Saddleback (Calif.) College and tried out for the baseball team in the fall of his freshman year.
Saddleback cut him.
Tancas headed off to Orange Coast College with the same goal of earning a roster spot there. He was cut that summer.
His next stop took him to Irvine Valley College (IVC), where he failed to make that team in the fall.
IVC head coach Kent Madole flat out informed Tancas he needed to make changes on and off the field if he ever wanted to play for his team.
As he reflects on that period now, Tancas sums up his biggest shortcoming in one word: Immaturity. Baseball is a game of failure, and Tancas handled his failure poorly.
He vowed to change his ways. "Just his words and his tone of voice made me believe it at the time," Madole told the Long Beach Press-Telegram in April. "And that whole summer and entire fall, it was a completely different young man."
Finally, Tancas made the team.
"We have a great relationship," Tancas said at the mention of Madole's name. "My first year there he called me out for the flaws I had as a player.
"I took it to heart. I came back the next year as a different man. I owe a lot to him. He gave me a second shot. He helped me develop as a baseball player."
Tancas paced IVC with a .340 batting average, and his play caught the eye of an assistant coach at Long Beach State.
The Dirtbags offered him a scholarship. His first season, though, was cut short when a wild pitch broke his wrist in the 10th game.
Tancas entered his redshirt junior season this year with a clean bill of health. He responded by hitting .304, with nine home runs and 37 RBIs. He did not make an error as the Dirtbags' starting left fielder.
The Pirates selected the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Tancas in the 26th round of the Major League Baseball draft in June and signed him for $15,000.
Tancas's bumpy journey brought him to a place he wanted to be.
"It's been awesome," he said of his path to the Pirates. "It's been a learning experience for sure. Not just learning in baseball but learning in life.
"Working jobs through junior college, paying for my classes, figuring out what I really wanted to do. I knew I had a passion for baseball. I knew if I got my shot, I could see a career in it. I'm honesty grateful to be where I am today."
Tancas, 23, is hitting .260 in his first 13 games with the Black Bears, with no home runs and five RBIs.
He's confident about the strides he's made in the first month of the season.
"You always want to be swinging the bat better," he said. "As long as I'm squaring balls up, I may not be seeing the results right now, but I'm going to stick to the process and I'm sure I'll see the results come."
A little adversity rarely spooked Tancas before, and it won't spook him now.
"If I didn't go through those shortcomings and getting cut, I don't think I'd be here today," he said. "It's really made me the man I am today and the baseball player I am today."