All-Area Baseball: Tauer a student of the game
A deep dive on YouTube helped Teddy Tauer find a way to mow down more hitters in the Big Nine Conference.
A student of the game of baseball, Tauer will use his free time to watch clips of top pitchers.
"I just want to be as good as I can be, so I study the greats," Tauer said.
By happenstance, a video of Don Larsen popped up, showcasing the New York Yankees' pitcher throwing a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series. Tauer figured he may as well take a look. And in that game, Tauer noticed that Larsen changed between his windup and stretch, messing with the hitters' tempo.
"His quick release really stuck out to me and I tried it in a few games and stuck with it," Tauer said. "As long as I was throwing it for a strike, hitters couldn't time it. It was definitely very useful throughout the season."
Going 6-2 with two saves while tallying a 1.24 ERA and 71 strikeouts while holding opponents to a .179 batting average, the Republican Eagle's All-Area Baseball Player of the Year made it a point to never stop learning.
"He comes up with interesting things; he's a baseball kid and he's well-read," said Red Wing head baseball coach Paul Hartmann. "Teddy's always looking for an edge. There were times early and midway through the year where he surprised a lot of players and umpires (with the windup changes). Some umps missed a call because of how quick he was."
Tauer's biggest lesson of the year came in the first game where he took his only loss of the regular season. Against Owatonna, Tauer held the Huskies scoreless for four innings before Owatonna went off for a six-run inning. Tauer was charged with the loss after allowing five runs, four earned, on seven hits.
"Physically, I was fine. But they got a few in the fifth and I checked out mentally," Tauer admitted.
"But I had a talk with Hartmann, I had a talk with (catcher Teddy) Lillico and made sure that wouldn't happen again."
Tauer's low-to-mid 80s fastball and improved curveball give plenty of batters trouble as he's emerged as arguably the best left-handed pitcher in the Big Nine Conference. But the biggest skill Tauer learned in his junior season was having a poker face. Hartmann wanted Tauer to rely on his stuff, not his emotions.
"He's such a competitive kid. In many ways, he's a perfectionist," Hartmann said. "I like to use the phrase 'The game starts talking to you a little bit,' and that's what happened for Teddy. ... He got to a point where he started to trust his stuff and know that even if he doesn't overthrow, if he puts it in the corner or inside, that puts him in a position to trust his defense."
After the opener, Tauer only gave up 13 more runs for the rest of the season, throwing four complete-game shutouts in that stretch.
"I had to calm down and remember it's one pitch at a time," Tauer said. "You can't strike out the side on one pitch. You just have to take it one step at a time. ... It's maturity. As I'm getting older, it's getting easier to go with the physical part."
It helped Tauer's cause to have a battery mate in Lillico that he's been throwing to since he was 9 years old.
"Physically and mentally, Lillico's huge. He blocks everything and he's a great pitch framer," Tauer said. "It helps out a lot. He'll come out to the mound and talk me down."
Hartmann added, "Teddy (Lillico) doesn't get enough credit for our pitching staff. ... Teddy Lillico knows when he has to come out to the mound and Tauer will do the same. They work well together to get the job done."
Tauer's bat also came up in clutch moments. Leading the team with 21 RBI while hitting for a .260 average, Tauer's biggest hit of the year paved the way for Red Wing to win the Section 1AAA championship. With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Tauer hit a two-run, opposite-field single that secured the Wingers' state berth.
"I credit (the team's leading RBI total) to the top of our order," Tauer said. "They all got on base and made it really easy to get a few runs in."
Hartmann said about the Northfield hit, "He let the ball get deep and went with it. ... The next challenge for Teddy is to take the mindset work he did on the mound and translate that to the plate."
With Red Wing at state for the third time in school history, Tauer took the bump at Siebert Field in the Class 3A state quarterfinals against Marshall. Against the Tigers, Tauer struck out a season-high 11 batters with just four hits and two walks given up in seven innings. Marshall ended up beating Red Wing 3-1, giving Tauer his first loss after going undefeated in eight straight starts.
In keeping with his new mindful approach, Tauer worked on his breathing before and during the state start.
"I knew I had to take some deep breathing," Tauer said. "We did yoga a few times before games at the (YMCA), and I took some of that and applied that before and during the start in order to control my emotions. I was locating pitches inside and outside. I knew I threw a lot of outside strikes that got them swinging. Lillico made a lot of great plays and my defense played a great game."
With one more year to go, Tauer's hoping to keep growing his game. He'll try to learn and improve in hopes of playing baseball in college.
One note for Tauer: The student said he plans on being a teacher one day.
"To be consistent as he's been the last three years, to perform on that state stage like he did, I was not surprised he was able to do that," Hartmann said. "Teddy's beaten a number of teams and it's rewarding to see him on that stage. He was dancing at my wedding 14 years ago as a 3-year-old kid. To see him mature over the years make it over to Siebert, that was a lot of fun as a coach."