On a cloudless Thursday afternoon in Huntington Beach, Ricky Tiedemann found himself somewhere he never thought he’d be. The 6-foot-4 left-hander has thrown from hundreds of pitching mounds in his baseball career, but just a year prior it would’ve been difficult to imagine him standing on this one. Tiedemann was warming up for his first appearance for Golden West College–making an unexpected detour on his projected journey to the big leagues.
At the start of 2020, during his senior season at Lakewood High School, Tiedemann was making a quick surge up MLB Draft boards and becoming one of the most coveted players in his class. Tiedemann had impressed during the summer showcase circuit, which included a stop at the Area Code Games hosted at Bohl Diamond at Blair Field. By the time his senior season with the Lancers rolled around, he was drawing dozens of scouts to his starts.
A fluke injury briefly derailed his senior season, before the pandemic shut things down for good. That forced Tiedemann to reconsider his future. His trajectory pointed towards a potential first round selection in the MLB Draft, but scouts hadn’t seen enough of him yet. Plus, in the condensed five-round format for the 2020 Draft, teams were less willing to take a chance on a high school arm, regardless of how projectible his skills were or how high his ceiling might be.
That left Tiedemann waiting for more than a year for the chance to play in a competitive game again, hoping to solidify himself as a frontline pitching prospect.
“All I wanted this whole time is to just get out and play some baseball, but things didn’t go as planned,” said Tiedemann after his debut for Golden West. “I transferred a couple times already, so it was good to finally get back out there and start playing some competitive baseball. It felt really good.”
Tiedemann was originally committed to San Diego State, but rather than lock himself into Division I college baseball for the next three seasons, he opted to go the junior college route in order to find a quicker path to pro ball. That’s not an unusual journey in the Tiedemann household; Ricky’s older brother, Tai, had a terrific one-year stint at Long Beach City College before going to the Texas Rangers in the 8th round of the 2016 MLB Draft. He remains in Texas’ system as a right-handed pitching prospect.
Ricky was prepared to follow in his brother’s footsteps and pitch for his local junior college, if he’d only gotten the chance. Tiedemann started taking classes at LBCC, but was never able to play for the Vikings. When LBCC’s season was officially canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions, Tiedemann was forced to transfer to a new school.
“He’s the greatest Viking to never take the field,” quipped longtime LBCC Baseball head coach Casey Crook. “Ricky needed to play this year and keep moving up the draft board. He can’t do that by sitting on his hands.”
Once the backup to the backup plan had fallen through, Tiedemann ended up at Golden West, where head coach Andrew Ramos welcomed him with open arms.
“Obviously he came to us in a weird way,” admitted Ramos, a Long Beach Poly grad with extensive coaching experience at Golden West. “He’s been good for us. He’s been a really good teammate and has been working hard. Stuff-wise, he’s 6-4, 220; he’s 90-93 (with his fastball), he has a really advanced changeup, and the slider can be good at times…For 18 years old, the sky’s the limit for him.”
Ramos said he’s working with Tiedemann on his extension off the rubber, hoping to take full advantage of his long, lanky frame. He’s also looking to add velocity and consistency to his slider, which would allow Tiedemann to present a compelling three-pitch mix for his age, lining himself up to remain a starting pitcher in the long run.
As a gaggle of nearly two-dozen scouts looked on from behind home plate at Fred Hoover Field, Tiedemann showcased his swing-and-miss stuff, racking up five strikeouts in the first four innings of his start while sitting low-90’s with his fastball and touching 93. For his first competitive start in about 14 months and with a pitch cap in place, Tiedemann was pleased with what he showcased.
“I felt pretty good. Early on, I felt like I was at my best, but later on in the game, I definitely felt a little more fatigue,” admitted Tiedemann after his start. “I feel like I could work on that a little bit more to get deeper into the game.”
Going nearly a year and a half between starts means growing pains are to be expected, but there could also be some advantages, too. Tiedemann used the time off to work on his body and hone his craft, even without the ability to play organized games.
“I think it’s overall helped me that time off,” Tiedemann explained. “I feel like I got better throughout quarantine. It feels good getting out here, but also it’s been a while, so I’m a little bit rusty. Hopefully as time goes on, and with more games, I’ll get better and better as the year goes on.”
And as the season progresses, the next level will be beckoning. Tiedemann is slated to throw every Thursday for Golden West, making it easier for major league scouts to come see him throw. Back in December, Brian Sakowski of Perfect Game ranked Tiedemann as the top junior college player in the country. “The draft upside here is potentially enormous,” wrote Sakowski.
But with all the hype and attention, Tiedemann is focused on his own game. He’s only worried about what’s happening at the plate, not who’s sitting behind it.
“A lot of my teammates ask if I get rattled at all with a lot of people being in the stands and a lot of decision makers in the stands watching me, but I think of it as if they’re not even there,” explained Tiedemann. “I play my own game, I don’t really try to do too much for other people or go crazy with that. I don’t worry about anybody out there or any distractions, I just do my own thing.”