Wissahickon’s Tappen lines up future by committing to Virginia

Alex Tappen’s courtship with the University of Virginia has been several years in the making.

From the first time he visited the campus, on a team trip with one of his travel ball clubs, the Lower Gwynedd product knew it was a place he could dream of going. It certainly helped that he caught the right eyes when he was there and did nothing to turn them away over the following years.

While he still had plenty of time to think things over, Tappen knew he had a fantastic opportunity in front of him. On July 16, the rising Wissahickon junior made it official, giving a verbal commitment to play baseball at UVA after he graduates in 2017.

“It’s a beautiful campus and the fact the coaches are so down to Earth, they’re a group I could picture myself playing for through all four years,” Tappen sad. “That ultimately led me to make my decision.”

Tappen’s first exposure to UVA came three years prior during that team trip, where he and his teammates saw the Cavaliers play Towson in a fall ball game and attended a Virginia football game. His travel team also played at the Cavs’ field and after Tappen turned in a good showing, he heard that UVA’s coaches liked they way he played and that if Tappen wanted, things could start to get serious.

At Wissahickon, Tappen is part of the Trojans’ pitching staff but his primary position is at third base. His future is as a position player but he’ll still throw for his high school team as well.

At another tournament this year, the WWBA national championships in Georgia, Tappen had another stellar performance in front of UVA associate head coach Kevin McMullan. Playing in the late game of one of the country’s biggest and most prestigious tournaments, Tappen had a defensive gem and hit a home run.

“That was kind of the turning point,” Tappen said. “I gave (McMullan) a call after the tournament was done and he said they would love to get (me) on campus.”

As a rising junior, Tappen can’t be contacted by college coaches, but he is able to speak to them on campus or if he initiates the contact. Sensing things were taking off with Virginia, Tappen did that, reaching out and setting up a tour with head coach Brian O’Connor. Tappen and his father took a five-hour tour of campus, the stadium and team facilities this summer.

Tappen said the tour was so in-depth that it showed him pretty much everything he could ever want to know about the school.

“I didn’t really need to ask anything, I already knew Virginia was where I wanted to be,” Tappen said. “I went in to the visit knowing this was my dream school and a place I wanted to be. It was all set up in a way that I knew what I wanted going in.”

Making such an early commitment isn’t going to change much about how Tappen goes about his work. He’s eyeing UVA’s excellent business school and will still be diligent with his school work to ensure he gets into the program.

In baseball terms, he’s going to keep playing and playing as much as possible. Shortly after announcing his decision on Twitter, Tappen joined his travel team for another tournament.

Even now in late July, he’s still putting in plenty of work and doesn’t plan to let up anytime soon. His future coaches encouraged the third baseman to stay with his travel teams because the more he plays, the more he’ll be exposed to college-caliber talent.

“They said don’t go soft, don’t go relax because now that the process is over, you can keep getting better,” Tappen said. “I way I can keep getting better is to keep familiarizing myself with the competition I’ll be seeing at the next level.”

He’s already put in a lot of work to improve his speed and throwing arm and by getting his commitment out of the way, Tappen can do more of that without pressure of also trying to impress scouts. Tappen feels he’s taken a lot of pressure off of himself and won’t fret over a rough game or two.

At the same time, his early announcement has already changed the way opponents approach him at the plate. Carrying a UVA commitment, with the school making the last two College World Series and winning a national title in 2015, means Tappen has talent and can’t be overlooked. Again, Tappen is looking at this as a positive.

“I’ve started seeing a lot more off-speed, more changeups, more curveballs so it’s definitely me getting a different approach from that aspect,” Tappen said. “I’ve got to find myself being more patient in the box. You’re seeing a ton of great competition no matter where you look.”

Tappen didn’t get to this point all on his own and thanked his parents for all of their support along the way. While his dad has been the one doing most of the travel to and from tournaments, his mother has followed every step and both were integral in making the choice for UVA.

“They’re both a really strong support system,” Tappen said. “You can’t get anything better than that.”

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