Play Ball

Whitefish’s Ty Schwaiger will get a high school swan song playing for the Bulldogs before pitching for Washington State

By Micah Drew
Baseball player Ty Schwaiger of Whitefish in the Washington State University locker room during his visit to the school. Courtesy photo

A 92-mile-per-hour fastball fired from the arm of Whitefish’s Ty Schwaiger takes 0.448 seconds to travel from the pitcher’s mound to the strike zone — or, to place that blazing speed into context, just over nine minutes to travel from Whitefish’s Memorial Field to downtown Kalispell, as the crow flies. 

That’s the kind of speed that made Schwaiger a top college pitching prospect with Major League Baseball scouts calling him over to chat after games, despite never actually firing a pitch in Whitefish’s baseball stadium as a teenager. 

In November, Schwaiger signed a National Letter of Intent (NLI), committing to take his pitching arm to the next level and compete for the Washington State Cougars next year. 

Schwaiger is a multi-sport athlete, making an impact for the Whitefish Bulldogs on the gridiron as an All-State running back and linebacker (not as the quarterback, as one might assume, but that’s often a good-natured discussion between Schwaiger and Bulldogs QB Fynn Ridgeway, who also plays baseball with Schwaiger). His primary passion, however, has always been on the diamond. 

“Baseball has been my life since I was born,” Schwaiger said. “It’s been my favorite sport ever since I was a kid. Even during football season I’d want to be out there pitching.”

Schwaiger chose a difficult sport, and an even more difficult and time-consuming route to compete in after graduating. Baseball isn’t a sanctioned high school sport by the Montana High School Association (MHSA), making recruitment in the state difficult. It was only this last year that MHSA voted to add America’s pastime to the high school line up for the spring but, until now, players such as Schwaiger either had to play Legion ball locally or opt for clubs outside of Montana.

Schwaiger chose the latter and in 2020 began playing with the NW Premier Baseball Club, based in Post Falls, Idaho, a commitment requiring a twice-weekly, four-hour drive to Post Falls for offseason training and tournaments. The 6-foot-1-inch right-handed pitcher spent a good portion of his last two summers on the road with NW Premier and showcasing his skills at training camps and at scouting games.

“It was definitely hard. I’ve sacrificed most of my summers each year,” Schwaiger said. “It’s truly a grind, but I love it.”

It paid off, too, as Schwaiger developed his skills on the mound. He now boasts a fastball that’s been clocked at 92 miles per hour.

Baseball player Ty Schwaiger of Whitefish pitches in the summer of 2022 for Northwest Premier. Courtesy photo

That speed drew some attention and at every tournament at least a few scouts had their eyes on him, including some from the biggest baseball schools in the country. 

“Looking up and seeing Oregon, OSU, WSU — big name schools I’d always dreamed of playing for, it made me nervous, but I think it ultimately helped,” Schwaiger said. “It made me throw even harder. It’s a good thing I perform well under pressure.”

After talks with more than seven programs, including four in the PAC-12, Washington State turned out to be the right fit for Schwaiger’s future. 

Next year, Schwaiger will join a Cougars roster that boasts more than a dozen other pitchers. The Cougars hired Anthony Claggett as the team’s pitching coach in 2020, and in just four seasons his pitching staff has produced two Major League draft picks and set program strikeout records. Claggett’s prowess in developing pitchers, combined with an 11-year MLB career with the New York Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates, convinced Schwaiger that his future is in good hands. 

“Washington State is pretty close to home, but it’s a PAC-12 school so I’ll be competing against the best teams in the nation and have some of the best coaches in the nation,” Schwaiger said. “Plus, they’ll have great PAC-12 football to watch each weekend, and you can’t go wrong with that, either.”

The plan is to play for the Cougars and get drafted — he’s chatted with some MLB coaches and heard positive things — but there’s something Schwaiger has his eye on first that’s a little closer to home. 

This spring, Whitefish will be one of roughly a dozen schools in western Montana, and around 40 statewide, that will field a baseball team and Schwaiger plans to make the most of it. 

“I didn’t think it was going to happen while I was still in high school, so I’m stoked,” Schwaiger said, adding that he will get to play with friends he hasn’t been on the diamond with since Little League. “It’s so nice supporting your town and knowing that after this fall’s football season, it’s not my last time putting on a Whitefish jersey.”

“We absolutely have our eyes on state,” he added. “The first baseball state championship in Montana history, that’s pretty special. And we’re going to bring it here.”