SAN ANTONIO — Usually the announcement of a minor league free agent joining the Padres organization doesn’t get much notice on social media. An exception to that rule occurred this May when Dylan Rheault announced his signing on Twitter, complete with a new Padres uniform he drew for himself using Microsoft Paint.
“Graphic design via Paint,” Rheault said when asked about the popular Tweet. “If anybody needs that, I’m your guy.”
Looking at different avenues of utility seems to be a running theme in 2021 for Rheault, who is balancing keeping his baseball dreams on track with an entrepreneurial spirit. Back in organized ball after two seasons away, Rheault’s looking to prove he has a future on the field, while also making moves toward one off the diamond.
The 29-year-old Rheault was drafted in the 19th round in 2013 by the Baltimore Orioles. A Central Michigan product, Rheault split his childhood between Canada and Chicago, with his baseball career being the reason he returned to the United States at age 17.
“It was much different,” added Rheault on playing in Canada, “we got on the field at the end of May, and we’d have to be off by sometime in September.”
“I’m from the really far north… everybody’s seen Letterkenny, well that show is shot in my hometown. So that can give you perspective on that. Most of the people work in the mine or play hockey.”
“We were 12 years old, and we were really good somehow. We played in the men’s league, so we’re 12 playing against 18 and up and we slaughtered every team, so the only games we could find would be four hours away.”
The 6-foot-9 Rheault’s minor league career has been defined by injuries and stints in independent ball. He spent the 2016 season in the American Association before joining the San Francisco Giants organization, then landed in the Atlantic League in 2019. In 2020, Rheault reported to Reds spring training, but when affiliated ball was shut down, he found himself back in the American Association.
“Every organization’s different, and there’s always a way to keep going. You’ve just got to adapt.”
It’s that desire to adapt and improve that had Dylan excited to join the Padres organization, who he praised for their embrace of data and advanced stats. “I kinda like the new age stuff, like data-driven stuff, because I know that’s where the game’s going.” said Rheault. “And I know the Padres have been good at that, so it just seemed like a really good fit.”
“When I was with the Orioles in 2015, I was averaging 87 mph on my fastball with below-average off-speed. Then I spent some time working with a couple of facilities and saw my velo increase up to 94, it’s been as high as 99, and then I developed two metrically-plus off-speed pitches. So I went from minus, minus, minus three pitches, to three plus pitches, in theory.”
2021 has been a mixed bag on the mound so far for Rheault. He began his first Double-A campaign with two scoreless appearances and only allowed one run despite nine walks in his first eight innings of work. Then he allowed seven earned runs in two-thirds of an inning in his final outing of the month to spike his ERA. He has bounced back to make three straight scoreless outings, including three innings on July 8. Over that stretch, he’s posted a much-improved 8:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Dylan’s extra-large frame has been just as important to his development off the field as it is on the mound. He is preparing to launch a clothing company catering to men 6-foot-3 and up Tall & Tapered. What started at frustration about the fit of his own pants has become a clothing startup.
“We’re going to start with pants because that’s been the hardest thing,” Rheault said when asked about the rollout. “I’m six-nine, you’re six-eight, so you understand the pain with finding pants. I could never find anything that really fit right, so I started getting annoyed because I had all these pants that just didn’t fit right and I’d watch all these people with really nice pants.”
And what experience did Rheault bring to this enterprise?
“Zero. YouTube University. Masters in Sewing from YouTube. “
Armed with his new skillset, Rheault set to work tailoring his own pants to fit, eventually doing the same for friends and teammates. “Yeah, I’ve tailored for a few guys here,” Rheault said, “and I have friends with the Braves who sent me a couple pairs of pants to tailor for them, and then there’s a gym in Arizona I train at, I’ve tailored probably 40 of the guys’ pants and shirts down there.”
While taking his role as clubhouse tailor to market, Rheault hopes the biggest story of his 2021 unfolds on the mound. Armed with a clean bill of health and the adjustments to his pitches advanced metrics gave him, Rheault plans to demonstrate this year what he believes he is capable of after years of setbacks.
“Just to really prove myself – prove that I can be here,” Rheault said of his goals for the season.
“I know I can, I had a rough past few years with injuries. And then, just really committing to my game plan and sticking to it. I swayed from a little bit in the beginning, but I’m getting back to it and I know if I stick to it I can have success.”