In the middle of January, two months before the start of baseball season, Meridian coach Steve Slesk received a text message from Tanner Tutterrow.
It read: “I want the ball all the time this spring,” Slesk said in a phone interview.
Tutterrow, a three sport athlete whose love is baseball, said the text came after a basketball loss. The words in the message not only revealed Tutterrow’s anticipation for his senior baseball season, it also spoke to his competitiveness and constant desire to win.
“I was a little angry and was thinking of baseball, so I told Steve I want the ball whenever I can,” Tutterrow recalled. “I want to pitch against the good teams — Sehome, Anacortes — and just win and stuff.”
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Since elementary school Tutterrow has never comfortably accepted losing, and four years ago when he came to Slesk as a freshman, the Meridian coach could instantly tell Tutterrow had a special makeup.
Slesk said he possessed that indescribable “it factor,” and while the Meridian standout has already enjoyed a strong baseball career, this season has been particularly special for Tutterrow.
He’ll be a big piece to whether or not the bi-district champions have success when the Trojans (11-11) open their Class 1A State Tournament against Cascade Christian at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 23, at Volunteer Field in Anacortes.
Tutterrow had established himself as a tremendous, young pitcher by the end of his sophomore year, but he began feeling pain in his throwing shoulder the summer before his junior season.
Doctors informed him he had a cyst that could not be removed, and while he was able to get through football, pitching was too difficult. Slesk mostly played Tutterrow at first or second and put him as DH his junior season.
“Last year was tough,” Tutterrow admitted. “I really had high expectations for myself as a pitcher, and I really wanted to lead the team and do well. I wanted to flat-out win games. When I couldn’t do that, it bummed me out, but I tried to do little things that were good for the team.”
Tutterrow has returned to the mound this spring, although Slesk keeps a close watch on his innings, and he and Derek Campfield have created an impressive one-two punch.
“A lot of people talk about kids competing on the mound, but he truly competes on the bump,” Slesk said. “I would put him against anyone and he will compete. He’s such a fierce competitor.”
His desire to win shows up in his leadership, too.
While the Trojans put together a perfect bi-district tournament to clinch the top seed coming out of Districts 1 and 2, Meridian’s season hasn’t always been smooth. From April 7-April 30, the Trojans lost eight of nine games with their only win coming against Lynden Christian.
Thanks in large part to Tutterrow’s leadership, Slesk said, Meridian is playing some of its best ball during its current five-game win streak.
Slesk called Tutterrow “a golden piece” to the baseball program, saying no one during his nine years coaching at Meridian has been a bigger ambassador for the club.
Tutterrow has bought into what Slesk preaches, and his infectious work ethic has infiltrated the rest of the team.
“We ran through a rough patch in the middle of the season, but Tanner never wavered,” Slesk said. “He tried to keep the kids together and was sincere about it. He believes in the program and continues to push these kids to follow our program, and we came out of the rough patch, and it’s a tribute to him and the coaches.”
Tutterrow said Slesk and him have become close over the years, and there’s one Slesk saying Tutterow uses for everyday motivation.
“‘Are you going to get better or worse today,’” Tutterrow recited. “I want to get better every day. I just listen to what he says, and I know it’s best for us.”
Every year Slesk said the team’s goal is to win a state championship. Meridian’s returned to its foundational principles of throwing strikes and playing great defense during its win streak, and the Trojans will be looking to carry that momentum into its biggest baseball weekend of the season.