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Hitting the pitch, in more ways than one

Oakmont’s Kuresa set to close out soccer career before chasing dreams on the diamond
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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With the start of practice for fall high school sports beginning this week, one Oakmont High soccer player enters the new season with a sense of relief and newfound energy. For Tyler Kuresa, the pressure of being a heavily recruited athlete has been constant, and while the scouts have been chasing the senior for his skills on the baseball field, it has impacted his other sport as well. Kuresa is a third-year starter on the Viking soccer team, and his presence in the center of the Oakmont defense is critical for a team that is looking to get back to the section title game, and this time to win it. “I see soccer as the other sport that Tyler really loves and makes time for in his baseball off-season if you can call it that,” said Oakmont coach Mark Broers. “He has lots of natural talent that allows him to play soccer for three months despite the fact he is not on a club team.” A left-handed first baseman, Kuresa committed his baseball skills to the University of Oregon earlier this summer and has spent his break from school on baseball fields all over the country. Most recently, he participated in the Area Code Games, an event that requires an invitation initiated by professional scouts. “The Area Code Games are largely a chance to be seen by pro scouts,” Kuresa said. “I ended up on a team made up mostly of players from Southern California, which turned out to be a good thing. I played with some high-profile players who will be very high draft picks next year.” While he has promised his services to Oregon, in baseball that commitment always comes with a contingency. Once the Major League Baseball draft happens next June, players who are selected have a couple of months to decide if they will head directly to the Minor League system of a professional club, bypassing the college game altogether. In the most likely scenario, under which Kuresa moves on to Oregon next fall, the school is getting a top-notch player and a great citizen. “Tyler, very personable,” said Oakmont baseball coach Dean Perkins. “He has great instincts, is an excellent hitter and very aware of the game situation. Oregon is getting someone who is wanted by most of the West Coast.” Broers advice to his starting sweeper was to go with a school that would provide a first-class education. As someone who was an NCAA athlete with professional aspirations, the soccer coach brings a great background to the discussion. “I'm pleased to learn he selected Oregon because it’s a great learning institution,” Broers said. “I was trying to advise him to select a school where he can get a solid education in case the baseball thing doesn't work out after college. I know he has had many good offers. He seems to have always been interested in going to a good school and less worried about the college team's record to his credit. He is a good student at Oakmont.” “I wanted to go somewhere where I could get in right away and make a difference,” Kuresa said in discussing his decision to go to a school that just brought back its baseball program last year. “I feel like I can do that at Oregon.” One more factor that may yet change Kuresa’s plans in a different way is the possibility of a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His older brother, Trevor, came out of high school in a similar situation to the one Tyler currently faces. “I have talked to the recruiter at Oregon about it and he is open to addressing it as something after my sophomore year,” Kuresa said. “Coach Checketts is also a member of the Church and he understands what is involved in that decision.” After one year on a baseball scholarship at Brigham Young University, Trevor served a two-year mission for the Church. Upon his return, the older Kuresa had decided that he did not want to continue his playing career at BYU, and chose to remain at the school for its educational opportunities rather than transfer to play baseball at the University of California-Berkeley. Currently a second-year law student at BYU, Trevor is one of his youngest brother’s main advisors when it comes to making decisions about baseball and serving a mission. “Trevor sees it from both sides,” Kuresa said. “He understands being a player hoping to make a career and the desire to serve a mission. He is my main mentor.” Before he joins his Oakmont teammates on the pitch, Tyler has one more baseball obligation to fulfill as he is playing this week in another showcase for pro scouts, this one put on by the Seattle Mariners. “This is my last tournament after playing traveling baseball since I was 13 years old,” Kuresa said. “This is very sentimental for me.” Once he returns, Kuresa has high hopes for this year’s Oakmont soccer team. “We are a very strong team with a very good senior class.” Kuresa said. “We also have a number of great players up from the JV. For me, I did not peak last year until we were in the playoffs, but this year I won’t be stressing about baseball and I can focus on soccer.” One of Kuresa’s most impressive characteristics is his ability to transition successfully to the soccer field, even while playing it for just the short high school season. “It takes him a few weeks to ramp up in the preseason but it hasn' t precluded him from being one of our leaders and top performers,” Broers said. “He dominates in the air, makes smart mental decision (thinks ahead like a ball player), and leads by example. He is really liked by all his teammates and very diplomatic. His natural athletic ability, attitude, and mental toughness help make him a successful multi-sport athlete.” In what will be his last hurrah in his No. 2 sport, Kuresa is ready to make a difference in pursuit of a section title before he hangs up his boots for the last time.