Dylan Rheault is working towards one phone call. As a relief pitcher for the Class A Delmarva Shorebirds in the South Atlantic League, Rheault is making his presence felt and climbing up the Baltimore Orioles prospect ranks.
The Greater Sudbury native has started his first full professional season at 5-0 with a 1.26 earned-run-average, 10 strike-outs and one save in 14.1 innings.
He has been waiting for the call since he was a kid growing up around the game in Garson. With the way he is performing, the call might be coming sooner rather than later. He is leading the league in wins.
“Ever since I was a kid, I have never wanted to be anything else than a Major League baseball player,” the Rheault said. “Growing up, I told everyone who asked me I was going to be Major League player.
“It is that dream of getting the first phone call to go up to the big leagues. It has driven me every day of my life.”
It has been a dramatic rise up the baseball charts for the young man the last five years and the 22-year-old is gaining confidence by the day.
Rheault never knows when the time will come that the Shorebirds tap him to step up and take the game into his hands as a relief pitcher. Whether getting the team out of a bad jam or preserve a one-run lead or strike out one key hitter, he will have to go out and perform — and Rheault loves it.
“I love the professional life,” he said. “I play baseball every day and I get paid to do it. I’ve learned a lot in my first full pro season so far.
“As a relief pitcher, I have to be ready at all times each game. When my name gets called, I get a big adrenaline rush. I get on the mound and I am locked in.”
His love of the game began some 19 years ago, watching his father, Tony, on the mound playing fast pitch. He left Greater Sudbury permanently during Grade 11 to pursue higher level coaching in Chicago, where he lived with his mother, Charlene.
Central Michigan University was home for two years while he played college ball. Drafted in the 19th round by the Orioles at the 2013 draft, he signed his first pro contract soon after.
Rheault isn’t leaving anything to chance. And he aims to finish his career without any regrets for what could have been.
“I have to make less and less mistakes as I go up,” Rheault said. “It feels this close to realizing my dream. I am not going to get complacent. I’m just going to work harder for it.
"If I don’t make it, I don’t want to look back and think I could have done more. Every sprint I do, every work out, I go after it like I want to be a Major League player.”
Rheault has impressed the pitching and coaching staff at Delmarva. His fastball is in the low 90s. His combination of size — 6-9 and 245-pounds — skills and willingness to learn has him going places.
“His mechanics are sound,” Delmarva pitching coach Alan Mills said. “With his height, his pitches come in at a different angle than most. His fastball has good action and his sinker is his best pitch.
He is a ground ball pitcher and he also has a good slider and change-up. He has huge upside. It’s rare to find pitchers of his height and as he grows and learns more, his pitches will just become better and better.”
Rheault has also earned respect and praise from the Shorebirds club for the way he carries himself, on and off the field.
“He is an asset to the bullpen because he is so versatile,” Mills said. “He can close a game for us or bridge the gap. He’s just a great kid who works hard each day and is competitive.”
Despite his sterling stats and record, Rheault is keeping his focus on the big picture —as in making it to the bigs and playing the game he loves.
“I’m not getting caught up in my wins and losses,” he said. “I just want the ball and to do my job for my team. I want to become the person I know I can be — a Major League baseball player. I believe in myself. If I don’t, who will?”