Every leader has their own way of showing leadership. Some are vocal and energetic, while others are more quiet and meticulous.
Alabama junior outfielder Tyler Gentry chooses to follow the latter when setting the tone for the Crimson Tide baseball team. Gentry is straight to the point when he speaks, but his play on the baseball diamond sets him apart.
“Tyler is really mature,” coach Brad Bohannon said. “He’s a smart, high-character player. He has a really positive influence on everybody within our program with the way he goes about his business because he prepares the right way.”
Gentry led Alabama in almost every offensive category last season. He paced the Crimson Tide in hits (65), RBIs (42), total bases (116) and home runs (13). The junior’s percentages at the plate, including his batting average (.310) and slugging percentage (.552), were both team highs as well. His 12 doubles and 37 runs tied the team lead.
Those efforts ranked Gentry seventh in the SEC in home runs and 14th in total bases during the regular season.
On Thursday, Gentry’s team-leading season last year was recognized by the 14 SEC coaches who voted the outfielder to the 2020 Preseason All-SEC Second Team. He was also named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association’s (NCBWA) preseason All-America third team.
“It’s cool getting some recognition but I need to take it with a grain of salt,” Gentry said. “The only thing that matters is what I can do to help my team win this year.”
Bohannon is very outspoken about players taking ownership of the team, expressing that the coaches should not be on the players’ cases about striving to be better. While Gentry is not as outspoken of a player as redshirt sophomore catcher Sam Praytor or redshirt senior pitcher Kyle Cameron, the junior is leading by example through his actions on and off the diamond.
“I’m not as vocal of a leader as those guys, but I try to get here early and get my work in,” Gentry said. “I want to inspire our younger players to be better.”
Those young players Gentry alluded to, 14 freshmen to be exact, will need to adjust to college baseball quickly in the Crimson Tide’s non-conference schedule early in the season. The pitchers are particularly young and will take some time to settle into their roles, leaving Alabama needing runs to combat any mishaps on the mound. This is where Gentry’s play comes into context.
SEC play has been the Achilles’ heel for Alabama over the last two seasons. However, Gentry has shown he is ready to help the Crimson Tide get out of the cellar in the SEC through his performance last season. The Arlington, Tennessee, native recorded a hit in 25 of 30 conference matchups, including a 14-game hitting streak to close out the season. During that streak, Gentry posted a .385 average with four home runs, eight RBIs and 10 runs scored.
“Everyone talks about his power, but he’s a really well-rounded baseball player,” Bohannon said. “He’s a very consistent defender, he can help you win in a lot of ways. As well-rounded as he is a player, he is as a person, too.”
Gentry’s father, Brandon, is the biggest inspiration in the junior’s baseball career. From a young age, Brandon always accompanied Tyler to the field for practice and did anything he could to help him grow as a player. With Tyler now a standout outfielder for Alabama, Brandon can be found in the stands for most games along with Tyler’s mother Shari, brother Dustin and sister Brittany.
Gentry’s family hasn’t seen him on the postseason stage yet at Alabama, but the postseason this year is the biggest goal for the Crimson Tide club. A trip to the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium for the SEC Tournament on May 19 is a start, and Gentry will hope to lead Alabama there through his strong play and continuing to set the example.
“It would mean a lot,” Gentry said. “I grew up watching the games there on TV – so many great players played there. It would be cool to follow in their footsteps.”