High School Sports

As two of Smithville’s best athletes, Jayce Tingler and Jacob Bohlken share admiration

Texas Rangers field coordinator Jayce Tingler and Jacob Bohlken, the Kansas City Star’s Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year, reunited at Sunday’s game at Kauffman Stadium.
Texas Rangers field coordinator Jayce Tingler and Jacob Bohlken, the Kansas City Star’s Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year, reunited at Sunday’s game at Kauffman Stadium. jsleezer@kcstar.com

In a dusty garage with pictures of Jayce Tingler plastered on the walls, just a short drive from Smithville High School, Jacob Bohlken can remember becoming enamored with the possibility of playing professional baseball.

This was where Bohlken, the soon-to-be Missouri wrestler, learned first-hand stories of success in the major leagues and in farm systems. He saw a path to success in baseball in this one-batting-cage garage, in the form of instructional lessons from Tingler, a former Missouri All-American who is now the Texas Rangers’ major-league field coordinator.

The lessons stopped in 2014 when Tingler was promoted from the Rangers’ farm system to a coaching position in the majors. Bohlken eventually landed on wrestling as his sport to pursue, not baseball.

But on Sunday morning, a few hours before he reunited with Tingler in the Rangers’ dugout at Kauffman Stadium, Bohlken found a hill and played catch with his brother for the first time since ending his baseball career in May. For one day, Bohlken was a baseball player again. As The Star’s Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year, he would throw out the first pitch in front of Tingler and thousands of fans.

“Are you going to throw from the mound?” Tingler teased in the dugout. “Don’t throw from the grass now.”

“I think I”ll get up there,” Bohlken replied as he grabbed his shoulder and rotated it, as if to try and loosen it up.

Sitting side-by-side in the dugout were two of the finest athletes in Smithville’s history — both Missouri Tigers, both with memories of that garage in Smithville. One was a former All-American outfielder for the Tigers in the early 2000s, and the other is starting his MU career as a heavyweight wrestler in the fall.

At times it was Tingler passing along stories of players in the Rangers’ organization, which he’s been with as either a player or a coach since he was drafted in 2003. That’s what Bohlken remembers best, anyway.

Other times, it was how to get the most out of Bohlken’s bulky build — the same build that has made him a coveted wrestler — at the plate. It was Tingler trying to teach Bohlken how to shift from a contact hitter into a power hitter.

What Tingler remembers best was not the athlete Bohlken, but the scholar Bohlken, who had a near-perfect GPA and a 31 on his ACT.

“It wouldn’t have surprised me, whatever he did, if he went to an Ivy League school,” Tingler said Saturday. “His mind-set, he has that type of ceiling. I’m happy he found peace with what he wants to do and staying local.”

With Bohlken wearing a Royals World Series jersey before tossing Sunday’s first pitch and Tingler in a Rangers jersey and cap, the two talked about life: How’s your family? Where are you staying at Mizzou? What classes are you taking? Have you talked to the coaches and trainers yet?

Tingler always had advice for Bohlken, especially when it came to pursuing multiple sports; Tingler played basketball along with his baseball career at Smithville.

So while Bohlken is no longer chasing the same dream Tingler was, or even what Tingler is living right now, he still sees Tingler as a role model.

“Everything he did, he did the right way,” Bohlken said. “It's nice to see someone like that, who does everything the right way, get rewarded. He's definitely somebody I … sort of follow in his footsteps, use the strategies he had, the different ways that he did things, just how he conducts himself.”

As Tingler sent Bohlken off to prepare for his first pitch, he left Bohlken with a simple message.

“Be good,” Tingler said as he hugged Bohlken. “Let me know if you ever need anything.”