PEMBERVILLE — The rivalry between the University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University is rarely pretty.
When the two sides lock horns, the result is often harsh stares, caustic put-downs, and games that result in euphoria on one side and despair on the other. The enmity is real.
But for three generations of athletes from Eastwood High School named Haas, baseball has overcome the rancor between bitter rivals.
It begins with Gary Haas, Sr., who played his college ball at Bowling Green from 1971-74. He was an All-Mid-American Conference shortstop who led the Falcons to a MAC title in 1972, and he was inducted into the school’s hall of fame in 1994.
A couple of years before that, Gary Haas, Sr., made what might appear, at first glance, to be a Faustian bargain.
“I called [Toledo coach] Stan Sanders and asked if he would consider signing my son,” he said. “Stan said to me, ‘If he’s your son, I’ll take a look at him.’”
Gary Haas, Jr., an outstanding high school catcher who also played at Eastwood, was looking to continue playing the game in college. For him, the love of baseball overcame any misgivings about playing for his father’s archrival.
“I knew I wanted to play college baseball,” he said. “Stan Sanders made an offer — don’t tell him this, but he probably offered too much — and that was all I needed.”
Whatever the price, it turned out to be a good deal for the Rockets as Gary, Jr., was a four-year letterman who saw extensive action behind the plate at UT.
Fast forward to Oct. 24, 2016. Gary Haas, Jr., now has a son, Tyler, who also catches at Eastwood High School, and on that day the third-generation Haas is talking to Bowling Green assistant coach Rick Blanc, who offers him a scholarship.
“Some days you don’t forget, and I won’t forget Oct. 24, 2016,” Gary, Jr., said. “After talking with coach Blanc, my two questions for Tyler were, ‘No. 1, are you sure that’s where you want to go to school?’
“When he said yes, I asked, ‘Are you sure you want to play college baseball?’ When he said yes again, I told him to call coach back and end the discussion. …
“My concern about being a UT grad watching him go to Bowling Green? Zero.”
That is because baseball, not a particular school, has bound three generations of the Haas family together. Tyler started playing travel baseball at an early age, and his coaches were his father and grandfather. Early in his career, Tyler took a liking to his father’s position and became a catcher.
“When I started catching, dad was a pretty good mentor,” Tyler said. “We worked a lot on footwork because I’m a taller guy [at 6-foot-5]. And we talked about the mental part of the game.
“And grandpa talked about being competitive.”
Tyler Haas is competitive. He is a three-sport standout for at Eastwood, having played on the football team that advanced to the Division V state title game last fall before earning All-Ohio honorable mention in basketball during the winter. But his baseball talent was apparent to Eastwood coach Kevin Leady even before he entered high school.
“As an eighth grader, we knew he would be a four-year starter,” Leady said. “As a youngster, both his father and his grandfather molded him into the player he is today.
“They taught him how to play baseball the right way, and they gave him a toughness. We know he’ll give us everything he has every game.”
Currently Tyler Haas is the cleanup hitter in the Eastwood lineup and also has a 1.07 ERA as a pitcher for the Eagles, who are 16-2 overall and lead the Northern Buckeye Conference with a 7-1 mark. But Leady — a former pitcher at Eastwood and BGSU — raves about Haas’ work behind the plate.
“If a pitcher knows he can throw a breaking ball in the dirt and it will stay in front of the catcher, that’s so beneficial,” Leady said. “Everything just sticks in front of Tyler.
“And I don’t call pitches anymore. I might signal him once or twice a game to throw a particular pitch, but it’s his game. He’s got a great baseball IQ. He’s basically a pro at the high school level.”
Tyler said he has only one goal for his senior baseball season — and it’s a team goal, not a personal goal.
“I want to make it to Huntington Park [for the state baseball championships],” he said. “I’ve played with most of these guys since I was 8 or 9, so I want that for these guys as much or more than I want it for myself.
“I’m fortunate that my career will continue after this season. For some of my teammates, this will be their last memory of baseball. I want it to be a great memory.”
Leady admits that he is excited to see Tyler will continue his baseball career with the Falcons program as well.
“I won a couple of [MAC] championships at BG, and hopefully he’ll get to experience that, too,” Leady said. “I could not be happier to see him go there — I’m very excited for him.”
Not half as excited as Tyler’s father, who played for the Falcons’ archrival, or Tyler’s grandfather, who also enjoyed a successful career in BG 40 years earlier.
“I get pretty emotional about it,” Gary, Sr., said. “It’s great for him to be going to Bowling Green, but was that my dream for him? No, it was not.
“My dream for him was to be successful in baseball and in life. But going to Bowling Green to play baseball is the cherry on top.”
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