Tyler Thornburg is one of those fortunate few who have achieved that goal.
The former Riverwood standout pitcher — a 2007 graduate — made it to the big-league level after being called up by the Milwaukee Brewers in early June.
It’s the second stint in the majors for Thornburg, who pitched eight games for Milwaukee last year before being sent back down to the minors.
Thornburg has certainly made the most of his latest opportunity, posting a 1-0 record and 1.35 earned run average in four games and 13.1 innings pitched – all of them in relief.
“It’s pretty much a learning process so far,” Thornburg said. “I’m trying to get those innings in and get a little more experience on this level. When I get an opportunity to do it on a regular basis, I can succeed.”
Thornburg reached his first milestone when he was credited with his first major league win, pitching two shutout innings of relief and giving up only two hits in the Brewers’ 4-3 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies June 8.
“It was pretty exciting,” Thornburg said. “Obviously, I was thinking about getting it as a starter — I didn’t expect to get it as a reliever. But, those were a couple of stressful last two innings, hoping we could lock it down and get that first win.”
Thornburg pitched two innings and allowed three hits in his first major league outing of the season — Milwaukee’s 6-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics June 5.
He also went five innings, allowed two hits and struck out four in a 2-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates June 30 and allowed two runs, three hits and three walks in a 12-5 loss to the New York Mets July 5.
Thornburg, who was 1-0 with a 5.31 ERA in his first stint with the Brewers last year, said he is still learning the ways of major league hitters.
“Honestly, it’s such a different game, the way the hitters approach at-bats, seeing the pitches they take,” Thornburg said. “It’s trying to learn the mindset of hitters up here. Minor leaguers just want to hit — just get hits and home runs to get up to the big leagues. [In the major leagues], they’re trying to have quality at-bats, so they take a lot of pitches that minor-league hitters don’t and also a lot of them are more guess hitters. It’s all about the experience up here.”
Selected in the third round of the 2010 Major League Baseball draft by Milwaukee after three years on the college level at Charleston Southern, Thornburg was in the minors for only two years before being called up by the Brewers.
“It was good,” said Thornburg of his quick ascension up through the Brewers’ farm system. “I think the learning process of each level is a lot different, especially moving from college into pro ball. But, I have learned from each level that you have to learn to do different things. So, I’d say — especially in the big leagues — once I got to go to the big leagues, that was the biggest learning process. So, I could go down to the minors again to work on the things I need to do up here.”
Riverwood coach Mike Santoro said Thornburg’s rise to the major league level was certainly no surprise.
“I have been fortunate to coach quite a few players, but none of them have consistently shown the work ethic and desire that Tyler has shown since he was a freshman in high school,” Santoro said. “Tyler is the example that we use routinely with our players of the success that you can have when you take ability and match it with work ethic and, most importantly, being a good person. He deserves all the success that he gets.”