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Hempfield's 'Tornado boy' makes a name on diamond

| Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Hempfield relief pitcher Tyler Tubbs delivers to a Canon-McMillan batter during their WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal playoff game at North Allegheny on Wednesday, May 15, 2013, in Wexford. Hempfield defeated Canon-McMillan, 7-3, to advance to the semifinals.

It was more than two years ago, in a time of suffering, one Hempfield boy took on the persona of “Tornado Boy.”

But now, Tyler Tubbs, a senior pitcher for the Spartans baseball team, has made a name for himself in a different area.

Tubbs, during the early signing period last week, signed a letter of intent to play baseball at Pitt-Johnstown. The right-hander, who hopes to enter the lineup as a starting pitcher, finished his junior year 3-1 with a 1.35 ERA and 31 strikouts in 26 innings.

“I was really excited to play for Pitt-Johnstown next year. I'm really honored to play baseball in college,” Tubbs said. “I was looking at a wide variety of schools, but it was a unanimous decision for me. It was a nice place and had a good major for me. It just felt right.”

Tubbs will decide between either civil or mechanical engineering.

Many also will remember Tubbs for another reason.

On March 23, 2011, a F2 tornado made a rare appearance and ripped through Westmoreland County. As a 15-year-old, Tubbs captured the event through his iPod camera in a 90-second video.

With easy access to different social media portals, Tubbs uploaded the video on YouTube. Within a short time, Tubbs' life changed.

“Tornado Boy” was fielding media requests from radio stations and television programs, including CNN newscasts, ABC's “Good Morning America,” and A&E's “Disaster Guy.” Tubbs also made appearances on Fox News, The Weather Channel and MTV Canada.

What was the best interview for a teenager that is locked in social media, you may ask?

“I would probably say Skyping with CNN,” Tubbs said. “It was pretty cool being on television live on Skype.”

Reflecting on the experience, Tubbs discovered one positive that came out of all that notoriety.

“It made me feel like I had a responsibility,” Tubbs said. “I had a responsibility to sell T-shirts and help raise money to help those affected by the tornado.”

After all the hype died down, Tubbs was able to be a regular teenager and focus on getting better on the diamond.

Tubbs was part of a Spartans team that went 20-5 last season and qualified for the PIAA playoffs after defeating Pine-Richland in the WPIAL Class AAA consolation game.

In his final season at Hempfield, Tubbs is looking to improve personally and also believes the Spartans can return to the state tournament.

“I'm trying to get stronger and also trying to improve my velocity on all my pitches,” Tubbs said. “A lot goes into that and getting better.”

Andrew John is a freelance writer.

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