By Jim Lane
CURVE, Pa. – Chances are Altoona Curve pitcher Tyler Eppler won’t hesitate if he’s asked the significance of the date June 6, 2014.
That’s the date the Pirates selected Eppler in the sixth round of the 2014 amateur draft.
More importantly, that’s the same date Eppler proposed to his future wife, Marissa Diggs.
“I had it all planned out for a while,” Eppler said of the proposal. “I wanted it to be a special moment. She wasn’t expecting it.”
Eppler talked to some of his teammates at Sam Houston State and they suggested he do it around the draft or at a draft party.
“I thought it was a great idea because she would have no idea,” Eppler recalled. “I’m not the kind of guy who wants it all about me so that’s what I decided.
“We had a bunch of family and friends over,” he said, “and, as soon as they called my name on TV, everybody started going crazy and celebrating. She was receiving phone calls from all of her friends congratulating her, so I had to wait for her to get off the phone.
“When she did, I got the ring from my mom and, as soon as there was a quiet moment, I dropped down on my knee and popped the question,” he said. “It was awesome.”
Tyler and Marissa were married Jan. 9, 2016 and the couple are living in Altoona for the summer.
Born in Navasota, Texas, Eppler played one year at Texarkana College before transferring to Sam Houston State for two seasons where he went 14-8 with a 3.28 ERA in 29 starts. One of his teammates at Sam Houston was current Curve pitcher Cody Dickson.
After signing with the Pirates, Eppler was sent to short-season Jamestown in the New York-Penn League where he posted a 3-2 record and 2.49 ERA in 14 starts and 68 2/3 innings.
Elbow soreness kept him in Florida until May 14, 2015 when he went to high-A Bradenton. With the Marauders, Eppler posted a 6-1 record and 2.58 ERA in 14 games (12 starts) and 66 1/3 innings. That earned him a promotion to Altoona where he started one regular season game and one playoff appearance.
Eppler also played in the Arizona Fall League with current Altoona teammates Brett McKinney, Austin Meadows and Reese Maguire as well as pitching coach Justin Meccage.
“Although I didn’t pitch well, it was a great experience,” he said of Arizona, “and I think it helped me a lot for this season.”
Only in his third year of pro ball, the 23-year-old Eppler already is in Double-A and appears to be on the fast track to the big leagues.
“The elbow tightness was kind of scary,” Eppler admitted of his 2015 spring training which forced a short shutdown. “I had to build back up before I went to Bradenton.
”I didn’t want the Pirates thinking they drafted a guy who is already hurt,” he said, “so that’s always been kind of a chip on my shoulder. I want to show them I can be a durable starting pitcher.”
Curve manager Joey Cora has been impressed with Eppler’s pitching so far.
“He’s pitched well all year,” Cora noted. “Just about every start has been a quality start.
“He controls the running game and fields his position,” Cora continued. “Mainly, he throws strikes with the fastball, the change and a breaking ball. He’s been really good so far.”
Cora said the organization thinks highly of the 6-foot-5, 218-pound right-hander.
“No doubt about it,” Cora said. “He’s been our horse.”