Former West Virginia State baseball player Tyler Payne recently signed a minor-league contract with the Los Angeles Angels and was assigned to the Salt Lake Bees, the Triple-A affiliate of the Angels.
Payne was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 30th round of the 2015 Major League Baseball Draft. He made his MLB debut for the Cubs in the final game of the 2021 season as a pinch hitter and catcher with two plate appearances to become the fifth Yellow Jacket to play on a Major League Baseball roster. The others were Billy Williams (1969), Larry Carter (1992), Paul Fletcher (1993-1996), and Scott Patterson (2008).
Payne is coming off his eighth season in professional baseball. He had a good season with the Iowa Cubs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. He hit .298 in 48 games playing at the highest level in Minor League Baseball. He also posted a .997 fielding percentage from behind the plate while only allowing three passed balls and he threw out seven would be base stealers.
While at West Virginia State, Payne batted .363 with 24 doubles, four home runs and 37 RBIs in his final season helping the Yellow Jackets win back-to-back Mountain East Conference Tournament championships in his final two collegiate seasons.
Payne, now 30 years old, will have another chance to make an MLB roster with the Los Angeles Angels organization this season. He would become the second WVSU baseball player to play more than one season in the big leagues. Former WVSU player Paul Fletcher made 11 big league appearances over three seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies and Oakland Athletics.
On November 16, Payne re-signed with the Cubs on a minor league contract. He elected free agency on November 10, 2022. On June 4, 2023, Payne signed a minor league contract with the Los Angeles Angels organization.
According to the Yellow Jackets athletic department, nineteen Yellow Jackets have been drafted by MLB organizations. Longtime Head Baseball Coach Cal Bailey was the first when he was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1966 MLB Draft. Larry Carter was the highest draft pick when he was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 10th round (260th overall pick) of the 1986 MLB Draft. Billy Williams was the first to make “The Show” in 1969 for the Seattle Pilots at 37 years old. He also made the majors as a coach with the Cleveland Indians under Tribe skipper John McNamara.