By Michael Bower
Earning the nickname “Grandpa Jr.” before your 16th birthday can almost never be good. But in the case of 15-year-old Tyler Dean, it’s about as much of a compliment that you can get.
“Grandpa Jr.” is a comparison to former Poway High baseball star Alex Dickerson, who was nicknamed “Grandpa,” for the way he walked after he had back surgery his sophomore year.
Dickerson, a 2008 graduate of Poway, went on to star at the University of Indiana and now plays for the Double-AA affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“Supposedly, I look like him, swing like him and walk like him,” said the left-handed throwing and swinging Dean.
And in four years, he will wear the Hoosiers’ baseball jersey like him.
Dean, a freshman at Poway, recently gave his verbal commitment to play both baseball and soccer for the University of Indiana. The 6-foot, 2-inch, 195-pound goalkeeper on the soccer field and first baseman on the diamond fell in love with the school on an unofficial visit he took with his older brother, Kyle, last year.
“I love the atmosphere there and I love coach (Tracy) Smith, the baseball coach, and coach (Todd) Yeagley, the soccer coach,” said Dean, who also had an offer from BYU and interest from UCLA and Yale. “And Dickerson went to Indiana and I never heard a bad word about it.”
Dean got to know Dickerson about eight years ago through Poway baseball camps. Dean calls Dickerson a friend and a role model, but says the outfielder had little influence on his decision to commit to Indiana.
“I made the decision on my own,” said Dean, who plays club soccer for San Diego Surf’s 16U Academy. “It was my decision. My parents wanted me to go wherever I wanted to go and I have the unique opportunity to play both sports. The great thing is the baseball and soccer coaches are best friends so they are not going to fight with each other over me.
“They told me if there is ever a point I decide to just go with one sport that they are totally fine with that. I am really thankful for that because there will be one day that I have to make a decision and I just don’t want that to be now.”
Both the baseball and soccer programs at Indiana are top-notch. The Hoosiers’ men’s soccer team won the 2012 national title and recently captured the 2013 Big Ten tournament title. The baseball program reached the College World Series for the first time in 2012.
“Those things happening just kind of finalized everything,” Dean said. “I was pretty excited about the soccer team winning the Big 10 tournament.”
Tyler is the middle of three athletic boys in the Dean family. Kyle, a junior at Poway High, committed to USD for baseball last year. Trevor, a seventh-grader, is the youngest of the trio. He is a talented baseball, soccer and basketball player.
“He is going to be a stud one day,” Tyler said.
The athletic genes come from mom, Andrea, and dad, Alan. Andrea is a former water polo player, while Alan played baseball and basketball.