As Tyler Levine’s college career was winding down, all he thought about was discovering a way to be a pitcher in professional baseball.
The East Meadow native was playing for Division III SUNY-Old Westbury, certainly respectable, but nowhere near a baseball hotbed.
“I started thinking, ‘What do I do [to continue my career],’ ” Levine recalled. “You ask people and a lot of them are telling you no.”
Maybe that’s why regardless of the situation he’s been asked to pitch in for the Ducks this season — whether it’s relief, long relief, or even an occasional start — Levin has the same answer: yes, yes and yes.
“Some of the names on our roster may ring a bell, but if you see my name it may not,” said Levine, who also works for Long Island Baseball in Bellmore. “One of the things I had to offer was ‘Whatever you need . . . I’ll be there.’ ”
Levine’s team-first outlook has earned him the respect of his fellow Ducks and the coaching staff.
“That’s the great attitude he has, and that’s one of the things we love about him,” Ducks manager Kevin Baez said. “He’s quiet but he has that attitude that when he takes the mound, he’s a fierce competitor.”
Levine has pitched in 17 games for the Ducks through Friday, including three starts. The 24-year-old righthander is 2-0 with a 4.41 ERA that jumped up from 3.26 after his toughest outing of the season Friday in the Ducks’ 8-7 loss at Bridgeport. The fourth-year pro went 4 1⁄3 innings and allowed six earned runs, six hits and four walks with three strikeouts. On the season, Levine has 23 strikeouts and 15 walks in 34 2⁄3 innings. The 5-11, 195-pounder throws first-pitch strikes at a 64.9 percent clip.
“My goal is to give my team the best opportunity to win,” he said. “If I’m not doing that, I have to say, ‘Where did I go wrong and what do I have to do to get better?’ ”
The fact that Levine has found his way into a career in professional baseball is nothing short of amazing considering the road he’s traveled.
Levine played two seasons on the varsity level at East Meadow High School, where he was a shortstop and pitcher. He went to SUNY-Old Westbury with the hope of playing both positions there, too. But a spot opened in the starting rotation and Levine went on to win the Skyline Conference Rookie of the Year award with a 4-1 record and a 3.12 ERA with 27 strikeouts and 12 walks in 49 innings.
However, a serious car accident slowed Levine, who pitched just 30 innings his final three seasons with no record.
Still, he found a way to make it to the now-defunct United League in 2014 with Brownsville, and the former North Country Baseball League (now the Empire Professional League) in 2015. Last season, he spent time with Joliet and later, Frontier League champ Evansville, and posted a combined 2.58 ERA with 40 strikeouts in 52 1⁄3 innings. Surprisingly, he was released on Feb. 1, but eventually found a home very close to his own backyard less than two weeks into the Ducks season.
Levine hopes his time in the Atlantic League leads him closer to his ultimate dream of playing in the majors. “I can show [people], ‘Hey, if you work hard enough your dreams can come true, and this is where you could be,’ ” Levine said. “It’s an unbelievable feeling. It really is.”
On Deck: Ducks at Bridgeport, 1:12 p.m. Sunday.