Tanner Bevard’s unusual path from Sacré-Cœur to college baseball hopeful

Sacré-Coeur senior Tanner Bevard recently had one of Mississippi state’s greatest baseball seasons, which most high school sports fans ignored.

The senior helped propel the Sacred Heart up the mound, onto the field and into the batter’s box and was instrumental in helping the Crusaders reach the second round of the 1A Playoffs. Benard’s efforts earned him a spot on Capital Sport’s All-State First Team for Class 1A.

Yes, his accolades are good, but what made his senior season so great? For Bevard, last year was only his second season playing high school baseball, and truly his first full year since COVID-19 ended his debut with Sacred Heart.

From grade seven until his senior year at the Sacré-Coeur, Bevard was a member of the school’s tennis team and had not played baseball since he was 12 years old.

Bevard’s story actually begins in his hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Like most children, Bevard got into baseball simply by playing wrestling with his father, which led to him playing the game himself. But Bevard didn’t just play for a regular recreational league. He started playing baseball at the Albuquerque Baseball Academy, which is the same place LSU star and Astros star Alex Bregman played.

However, when Bevard was 12, his family moved to Mississippi and, he said, kicked him out of the game.

“My mom is still in Albuquerque, and my dad and stepmom were here,” Bevard said. “All that moving and separation and then trying to fit in and find new friends and all of that made me exhausted from baseball. I didn’t really fit into the teams. I didn’t really like baseball anymore.

Bevard quit baseball, but soon found his new love, tennis. Bevard’s father was a nationally ranked college tennis player at Cal State LA, a Division II school, who set Bevard’s goal of being a college athlete.

“He introduced me to (tennis and) I fell in love with it because of the constant movement,” Bevard said. “The goal for me is to play in college because my dad experienced it. I think it would be cool to keep that legacy.

Much like his father, Bevard was also quite good at tennis. In 2019, he helped Sacré-Cœur win a team championship in second year. That same season, Bevard also won the State Individual Mixed Doubles Championship. In the United States Tennis Association (USTA) rankings, Bevard was ranked fifth in the state among 16-year-olds.

But life has cast a strange curve (pun intended) for the burgeoning tennis player. Bevard suffered a partial meniscus tear in his knee in seventh grade, which was the first of three knee injuries he sustained.

During his first year, Bevard suffered a partial tear of the patellar tendon in his right knee. The tendon in her knee was coming loose from her kneecap but was still attached. Luckily for Bevard, the tear was vertical, not horizontal, meaning he didn’t fully tear the tendon and could still play through the injury.

At the same time, during his freshman year, Bevard decided to try out for the school’s baseball team after several of his friends convinced him to return to the sport.

“A bunch of my friends from school were on the baseball team,” Bevard said. “I didn’t want to because I was so wrapped up in tennis, but with the knee surgery I wasn’t going to play tennis, so I just joined the baseball team for fun, not thinking about go to the University. It was something to do and it wouldn’t ruin my knees so much.

Bevard impressed right away in the brief season, as he started in the outfield and hit 0.438 in his first seven games with the team.

“When I was young, I played tennis,” said Larry Watkins, Sacré-Cœur baseball coach. “I think it has a lot to do with your hand-eye coordination and having a good base under you when you strike. It’s the same with baseball.

“You have to use your bottom half a lot of times. I think it probably helped him, and the work ethic he got from playing tennis spilled over into baseball. ”

Bevard agreed that tennis played a major role in helping get a baseball game back on track and believes it made him a better player.

“I’m swinging with my left hand, and it’s my backhand, so it’s the same grip on a tennis racket, just like a baseball bat,” Bevard said. “You always see high speeds at long distance, and hand-eye coordination is great in tennis, so that’s okay.”

At the start of his senior year, Bevard had planned to play both sports, but last November he suffered a second partial tear in his patellar tendon, this time in his left knee. Instead of opting for surgery, Bevard was given an injection of platelet rich plasma (PRP), which uses a patient’s own platelets to speed healing of injured tendons.

“There is no numbing medication,” Bevard said. “It’s just a needle that goes straight into the torn tendon. It was the worst pain I have ever felt. I only did this to try and start playing tennis again.

Unfortunately, therapy didn’t work, so Bevard had to face the harsh decision to give up tennis. At this point, Bevard was planning to sign and play with Jones College.

“I could have had another surgery that would have allowed me to play tennis, but I chose baseball instead because I wouldn’t have to go through the surgery and rehabilitation process,” Bevard said. “It’s a throbbing pain, so with every step it skyrockets and reminds you that it’s there.” Even sitting down, it will hurt. I can go out and knock today, but tomorrow I couldn’t do anything. I would have to take three or four days off before I could start over. It’s not worth it because it’s not the number of reps you need to level up. It’s no fun to walk and hurt with every step.

Bevard’s commitment to baseball has paid off as the senior hit .348 last year; while on the mound, he posted a 3.57 ERA by striking out 46 batters and walking 17.

“He’s always catching up,” Watkins said. “He’s a difficult kid. He works really hard. He’s just very motivated. He sometimes plays in pain, but he never complains.

With a solid but short career and a 28 on his ACT, Bevard has attracted the interest of several junior colleges, but is currently considering playing baseball at William Carey. Despite his journey, Bevard gave the bulk of his baseball success to Watkins just to be confident.

“Without Coach Watkins, none of this would have happened,” said Bevard. “Coach Watkins has been a huge figure in motivating me and inspiring me with confidence. He worked with me to get better.

Watkins credits Bevard’s tennis background for developing his mental toughness and has no doubts his player will win the opportunity to play college ball.

“He’s really competitive, and I think that’s probably one of the strongest parts of his game, and I like that,” Watkins said. “We want our children to be like this. It’s a lesson in life that you have to learn because you will always be competing for a job or whatever.

“I think his projection is really high and has a high ceiling because of the way he works. It is a rough diamond.

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