Brendan Tinsman is sporting a beard this season. “I started growing it out right before season. … I’ve kind of just been scared to shave it since I’ve been swinging well so it just keeps getting longer. At this point, it’s just superstition.” Scott Kinser photo/Courtesy of Wake Forest athletics

Brendan Tinsman of Cape Elizabeth is having an “all-American type” season, according to Wake Forest baseball coach Tom Walter.

The way Tinsman sees it, he’s simply producing as he always knew he could.

Brendan Tinsman

After an injury-plagued 2021 campaign and the COVID-shortened 2020 season, the 22-year-old is now an everyday catcher who’s hitting .349. On Tuesday he hit his team-leading 20th home run – tied for fifth all-time on Wake Forest’s single-season chart.

“I definitely feel like the rest of my career I’ve dealt with injuries, or the COVID year,” said Tinsman, a redshirt junior. “So, a big part of it is just getting consistent playing time. I’ve been able to put up numbers I felt I should have been putting up my whole career.”

He’s already set career bests in hits (73), doubles (13), homers and RBI (57), and his .699 slugging percentage is also a career high. He leads the Demon Deacons in homers, slugging, multi-hit games and multi-RBI games.

It’s all added up to Tinsman putting himself in position for both national honors and hearing his name called in Major League Baseball’s amateur draft in July.

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On Thursday, Tinsman was named one of 16 semifinalists for the Buster Posey National Collegiate Catcher of the Year Award, formerly known as the Johnny Bench Award.

“It’s an all-American type season and certainly he’s a candidate for the Johnny Bench Award,” Walter said. “And he’s also thrown out a high percent of baserunners and if you look at the stolen bases against us this year compared to last year, it’s night and day, and Brendan is a huge part of it.”

Tinsman has thrown out 12 of 35 runners trying to steal (34.2 percent) this year. In 2021, Wake Forest as a team was 14 of 72 (19.4 percent).

Wake Forest has had 41 players drafted or signed by MLB teams in the past eight years. This year’s 20-round draft takes place July 17-19.

Brendan Tinsman has thrown out 34.2 percent of runners trying to steal this season. Wake Forest Coach Tom Walter believes that Tinsman will be selected in the first 10 rounds of the MLB amateur draft. Scott Kinser photo/Courtesy of Wake Forest athletics

“Without question he’s a pro player in my opinion,” Walter said of his sturdy 6-foot-2 catcher. “He’s a physical catcher, he can hit with power. I think he can be drafted in the top 10 rounds. I think that’s a likelihood.”

A year ago, things weren’t going nearly as well for the 2018 Maine Sunday Telegram Player of the Year.

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Tinsman was coming off wrist surgery in the summer of 2020 that had kept him away from baseball activities for three months when he broke the hamate bone in his left hand while taking a preseason swing early in 2021.

“It’s basically somewhere in the palm of your hand, right where you hold the knob of the bat,” Tinsman said. “It’s really an inconvenient bone. It doesn’t really do anything at all.”

Surgery removed the bone but Tinsman missed over five weeks of games. When he returned in the midst of the ACC season, he struggled, hitting .257 in 28 games while bouncing between catcher, outfield and designated hitter. Wake Forest went 20-27 overall and 10-22 in the competitive Atlantic Coast Conference, failing to make the ACC tournament.

Wake Forest has also bounced back. Entering Thursday’s opener of a three-game series at North Carolina State that will finish the regular season, the Deacons are 36-16-1, 12-14-1 in the ACC. Walter believes his team will get an NCAA bid with two wins this weekend, or one win plus two more in the ACC tournament.

Walter said the team’s turnaround is directly attributable to Tinsman and his roommate, shortstop Michael Turconi, taking on bigger leadership roles and emphasizing a team-first culture.

“He’s just really done a great job in investing himself in his team and his teammates and being the leader of this team,” Walter said.

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“In years past, individual accolades were our biggest focus,” Tinsman said. “This year we put a huge emphasis on team culture and being able to take the pressure off of yourself to succeed and instead focus on the team winning games.”

There could be one additional factor for the 2022 improvement.

Tinsman’s Maine woodsman-worthy beard.

“I started growing it out right before season. The scrimmages are pretty cold,” he said. “I just thought I’ll see where it takes me and I’ve kind of just been scared to shave it since I’ve been swinging well so it just keeps getting longer. At this point, it’s just superstition. I don’t want to do anything to hurt myself or the team.”

Tinsman completed his undergraduate degree in communications earlier this month. He said he’s unsure what to think of his draft prospects. He could come back to Wake Forest for one more season but playing pro ball has been his dream since Little League.

The pandemic and the injuries stalled that dream but they also gave Tinsman a greater appreciation for the game, he said.

“It had always felt like baseball was just going to be there whenever I wanted, forever,” Tinsman said. “Having it taken away a couple times changed my perspective to it was an honor to play baseball.”

Now Tinsman’s baseball dream is back on course.

“Coming back and playing well, it is a really cool feeling to think I might be able to play baseball for a long time.”


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