When Colin Lyman reaches first base, which is quite often, there is a good chance something favorable will happen for Huntley’s baseball team.
And when Lyman reaches first, for him, the real fun starts. He studies the pitcher with most discerning eyes, taking in every minute detail and movement, looking for the slightest edge, that fraction of a second that can make the difference.
Red Raiders coach Andy Jakubowski says Lyman “has a very high baseball IQ.” Between his brain and his off-the-charts speed, Lyman is almost impossible to stop. As a junior, Huntley’s center fielder attempted to steal 30 bases and was successful 28 times.
“When I was batting third [as a sophomore], I didn’t have as much of a chance to steal with good hitters behind me,” said Lyman, who will play with NCAA Division I Louisville next year. “I like leading off better. You can waste a pitch [to steal on] with the second guy, a guy who handles the bat. And he can get me over to third. Then, the other guys get their RBIs.”
Lyman again will be the catalyst atop the Raiders’ lineup, ready to rip and run. He hit .431 last season, with 17 extra-base hits, 29 runs scored and 17 RBIs. That followed a sophomore season in which he hit .448 with four home runs and 30 RBIs. Lyman was a Northwest Herald All-Area first-team selection both years.
“He’s definitely lifted up our program to what our younger kids strive to be in terms of work ethic and style of play and being a good person on and off the field,” Jakubowski said.
Lyman and third baseman Bryce Only were starters on Huntley’s 2010 team that placed fourth in the IHSA Class 4A State Tournament. Lyman has been difficult to slow down since then.
Shortly after that, he joined the Illinois Sparks travel baseball program out of Orland Park. Among his coaches there were former White Sox outfielder John Cangelosi, who set the American League rookie record with 50 stolen bases in 1986.
“He has given me a lot of tips [on stealing],” Lyman said. “He’s a good guy to take advice from.”
Lyman says the jump is the biggest part. He watches to anticipate whether the pitcher is going home or coming to first. He reads the pitcher’s body language, whether it is from first base or from the dugout, to pick up any little advantage.
It helps, of course, that Lyman is considered very fast, even by major league standards.
“A good 60 [-yard] time in the major leagues is 7 seconds; 6.6 or 6.7 is lightning fast, and Colin is in that range,” Jakubowski said. “With him hitting from the left side, any ground ball can be a bang-bang play at first.”
Lyman’s on-base percentage last season was .516. Lyman and Only first played together in sixth grade for an Illinois team that played in New York.
“We’ve always been good friends, and that kid’s always been able to fly and hit,” said Only, who will play at Nebraska next year. “We see each other on the national level [in the summer] and he’s still blowing those guys out of the water. Colin Lyman’s speed is a completely different speed. It’s really fun to watch him play.”
Lyman said he just always loved to run around and race while growing up. Now he uses that ability to run down balls in the gap or take extra bases.
The one thing Lyman has had trouble with was putting on weight. While his 6-foot-1 frame looks slender, he actually is 10 pounds heavier (160) this season.
“I eat all the time,” he said. “But I, literally, had not gained weight for three years.”
Through lifting and eating, he now is bigger, which could translate into more power. At this point, Jakubowski sees the need for some tweaks, but finds no glaring weaknesses with Lyman.
“He has some individual goals, like cutting down on strikeouts a little more,” Jakubowski said. “He works hard on his bunting skills, which plays to his strength. He wants to get stronger and drive the ball a little more.”
Naturally, Lyman and Only would love nothing more than to finish another season at Joliet’s Silver Cross Field. But the Raiders have simplified their approach.
“Most of the guys on the team don’t like to say ‘state’ because that’s how we were last year and it kind of put a curse on us,” Lyman said. “We were all thinking big picture instead of day-by-day. Our motto this year is ‘Win the Day,’ which just means worry about every pitch, every at-bat. And if you win every day, you’ll have a great season.”