Located in the northern part of the state, Grafton is far from a baseball hotbed. However, by the time Tyler Kliniskie takes the mound for NDSU this spring, he will become the second member of his family to develop into a Division I baseball player.
His older brother, Anthony Kliniskie was a pitcher with the Bison from 2009 to 2012, pitching in all four seasons for NDSU while posting a record of 7-4 and a 5.31 ERA across 79.2 innings of work. Tyler’s path to the herd was a little less straightforward.
The younger of the Kliniskie brothers started his career at Valley City State, pitching in three seasons for the Vikings with his finest season coming in the 2020-2021 campaign. During that season, Tyler went 1-4 while posting a 5.63 ERA and fanning 49 across 48 innings of work.
Now, Tyler enters the NDSU program as a grad transfer and it looks like his best baseball is ahead of him.
What did the long winding road to NDSU, with a long pit stop at VCSU, look like coming out of high school?
I developed a lot during my first year at Valley City. I was growing as a player, my fastball had jumped from 83 in highschool to 86 in the fall and then to 91 over winter break. Then, after my freshman year, I tore my labrum. So then, I sat out a year before coming back.
Once I finished at VCSU, I was moving to Fargo and had a full-time job lined up. I ended up getting a call from an indy-ball team from Arizona, and thought about it, but decided that probably wasn’t the right option. I thought it would be better to possibly try and continue playing in college and work towards something else education-wise.
So you had a job lined up, did you reach out to the NDSU coaches or did they reach out to you?
I had told my coach at Valley City that I was thinking about possibly playing and he talked to Coach Brown when he was here to see if there would be any interest in having me come here to play.
Eventually, we both decided there was a mutual interest in having me come here to play.
Coming from Grafton, you don’t have the same opportunity as some other high schoolers around the country to play the game year round. Did you really do anything in the offseason to sharpen your skills?
I played football and basketball in high school too so baseball wasn’t a year round thing at all. We did some things once in a while during the winter, but for the most part, we started in March and that’s when we started.
Was baseball your main sport or were they all kind of equal to you?
Baseball was definitely number one, far and above the other two.
Do you think the other two helped you as a baseball player at all?
I think, physically in some way, but I think it helped me mentally more than anything. I think it helped me develop that mental edge a little bit.
What is it like coming in as a 23-year-old grad transfer?
It’s definitely different. I’m older than probably everyone but four or five guys on the team. I feel like the transition has gone pretty well though. Nothing has been a huge wakeup call or anything like that.
Between Valley City, Grafton and now Fargo, you’ve spent a lot of significant time at different places around the state. What does the state mean to you in general?
It means a lot. Being from North Dakota, you kind of just get that blue collar mentality. Working hard is important here. I just love the state. Many people just don’t understand it unless you’ve been here.
What are some of your favorite things about Grafton?
Really just the people.