Tanner Chauncey leaves behind baseball legacy

Ari Davis
Tanner Chauncey defends first base in the game against Portland. (Ari Davis)

Tanner Chauncey walked up to the plate, stretched his aching shoulder and looked out across the outfield at the yellow lights on the scoreboard.

BYU: 5, Visitor: 5.

It was the bottom of the 10th inning, and BYU needed a run.

As he raised the bat behind his head, he heard the spectators grow quiet. The pitcher released and the ball came spinning toward him. Chauncey swung and the ball splintered off of his bat and sailed into the outfield — exactly what was needed to bring his teammate sliding home for the win. The crowd let out a cheer and Chauncey, resting at first base, smiled.

“Growing up I was always a big BYU fan,” Chauncey said.

He’s been a member of BYU’s baseball team since 2012, excluding a two-year hiatus during which he served a mission for the LDS Church in Brazil.

Chauncey has been invaluable to BYU baseball, helping put the program on the national map.

In his first year, he led BYU’s offense with a .328 hitting average. As a sophomore, he made the West Coast Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll with a 3.39 GPA.

In his junior year, he was named a WCC Player of the Week. Now a senior, he is one of the hardest batters to strike out in the nation.

“He has experience, not only on the field but off the field,” said Coach Mike Littlewood. “He’s a guy that everybody looks to for guidance, leadership and consistency.”

To this point, Chauncey has accomplished every one of his baseball goals, except one: to play major league baseball.

Chauncey’s talent didn’t go unnoticed by professional scouts. On several occasions, they pressured him to quit college and sacrifice serving a mission in order to play professionally, but Chauncey had a different plan.

“When I got home, I had the opportunity to sign and forego the rest of my college career and education to go play professionally for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but I decided to turn it down,” Chauncey said. “My plan was to come back my sophomore year, be healthy, play shortstop, do well and get drafted higher.”

Chauncey said he trained for this for as long as he can remember. From playing T-ball at age 3 to becoming team captain at BYU, Chauncey dedicated himself to the game for 20 years. But upon returning to baseball in the fall of 2014, something unexpected happened.

One afternoon, while practicing with the team, Chauncey dove to catch a ball, landed on his right shoulder and felt a painful pop.

“I ended up tearing my labrum in my throwing shoulder,” Chauncey said. “Ever since then, I haven’t been able to throw the same.”

Chauncey was forced to take a break from practice in order to let his shoulder heal well enough to postpone surgery and play his sophomore year. Painful as it was, he had a successful season. After surgery, Chauncey never fully healed and was forced to switch from playing shortstop to first base.

As time went on, injuries continued to plague him. Since his initial shoulder injury, Chauncey tore his labrum again and separated his shoulder on several occasions. He also pulled both hamstrings multiple times and tore each one once.

To this day, he still has a dent in his right quadriceps from when he tore that muscle.

Littlewood praised Chauncey’s perseverance and passion for the game.

“He’s pretty much played every single year hurt,” Littlewood said. “He’s just not the kind of guy who’s going sit out — he’s going to play.”

As time moved on, the increase in injuries decreased Chauncey’s MLB potential. But Chauncey said he wasn’t going to let this affect his spirits.

Instead, he decided to play hard and learn from each challenge he faced.

“I think it’s definitely helped me to be a stronger player,” Chauncey said. “I feel I can overcome any adversity thrown my way.”

Chauncey mentioned the possibility of signing an undrafted free agent contract later this summer but said it’s not a sure thing.

“At this point in my career and in my life, I’m probably done with it and I’m fine with that now,” Chauncey said. “If you would have asked me that six years ago I would have said, ‘No, I’m going to try and play for as long as I can,’ but at this point in my life, it’s time to move on.”

Chauncey said although baseball will always be important, he now has other goals. He said when he graduates in August he plans to pursue a career in sports — but with his degree in statistics rather than with a bat in his hand.

Chauncey added he also looks forward to raising a family with his wife, Lauren.

Chauncey will leave behind an incredible legacy at BYU. Bronson Larsen, the team’s catcher, said the team will miss him.

“I’ve known Tanner for a long time and he’s a great baseball player, but he’s an even better person, on and off of the field,” Larsen said.

Whether or not the game is part of Chauncey’s future, that same passion he had on the field will carry on throughout his life.  Because, as he says, though his body still aches, his spirit has never been stronger.

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