Iconic, influential Alaska coach Tony Wylie passes away
Posted by Van Williams, ALB Media Director | Nov 15, 2022
Tony Wylie, an iconic Alaska baseball coach who later become the state’s most influential scout, passed away over the weekend. He was 65.
The Anchorage native impacted virtually every elite baseball player from the state over the last 20 years as a coach at the high school and Legion levels and through his work at the Alaska Baseball Academy.
His fingerprints are on a dozen MLB draft picks, a record-tying four straight Legion state titles and a legacy of helping more than 100 players bridge the gap between the Last Frontier and the Lower 48.
“Tony affected my career in a profound and wholly positive way,” said 2017 San Diego Padres draft pick Jonny Homza of Anchorage. “He gave me, my brother and many others the opportunity to continue playing the game we love and opened doors for us that very likely wouldn’t have been opened otherwise. In fact, there’s no way I would be playing professional baseball today if it weren’t for Tony. His love for the game and dedication to his players will continue to be an inspiration to me and the entire Alaska baseball community.”
Wylie’s passing rocked the Alaska baseball community, hitting former players especially hard.
“Coach Wylie was basically a second father figure to me,” said two-time MLB draft pick Chad Nading of Anchorage. “He took interest in me as a 12-year-old kid and never left my side up until the day he passed away. Him and his family spent almost every Christmas Eve at our house for family dinner and gift exchange. Tony and my dad Curt became best of friends and so did my mom Dena and Sue. He was so much more than a coach to me and my family.”
Wylie was a MLB draft pick in 1975, selected by the New York Mets in the 26th round out of Salinas High in California. He played two seasons of rookie ball as a teenager, splitting time between the outfield and first base.
He turned his focus to coaching and eventually made his way to Alaska.
Wylie coached at East High from 1999 to 2006, leading the T-birds to an ASAA state title in 2000 and winning 75 of 95 career games for a .789 winning percentage, which ranks No. 2 all-time in the 30-year history of the Cook Inlet Conference.
In Legion, his East Post 34 teams featured some of Alaska’s greatest players and produced a historic run between 2003 and 2006 by winning four consecutive state championships to match West Post 1's record set from 1965 to 1968.
From 2000 to 2006, East posted a 25-10 record at the state tournament and advanced to five straight title games. His 2003 team beat Whitefish (MT) 9-6 at the Legion Northwest Regional.
“Coach Wylie leaves a baseball legacy in Alaska that is hard to match,” said Ken Wooster, a former coach and current umpire. “But more importantly, he positively impacted hundreds of young people during his career. He will be greatly missed.”
Emerging from those East teams were MLB draft picks Juan Buck (2004), Corey Madden (2006), Anton Maxwell (2007) and Nading (2006, 2009).
Maxwell went on to play at Oregon State and then Single-A. Nading played at UNLV and then Double-A. Madden advanced to Triple-A after playing at St. Mary's.
“Tony was the reason I was able to get exposure at the right time,” Nading said. “He put me in every situation to be successful and that allowed me to play at the highest levels of baseball.”
In 2003, Wylie created the Alaska Baseball Academy and used his national connections to get Alaskans in front of pro and college scouts. He served as a regional scout for the Milwaukee Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks.
He helped Scooter Bynum of Fairbanks get noticed, dipping into his own pocket to pay for travel expenses.
“Coach Wylie was the guy who put me in front of the right people, which ultimately ended up with me getting scholarship offers at every level and drafted,” said Bynum, a 2014 Cincinnati Reds draft pick. “He took me down to Arizona and put me in front of scouts and college coaches who didn’t even know who I was.”
Wylie’s reach extended four decades, stretching from the end of the 1990s to the beginning of the 2020s.
This year’s Gatorade Alaska Player of the Year Curtis Hebert is now at the University of Portland and credited Wylie for putting him in position to be seen.
“Tony had a huge impact on my career and so many other Alaskan baseball players,” said Hebert, who played for Wylie's travel ball team for five years. "He’s taken me on so many trips where I was able to get the exposure that helped me get to places, I’ve been able to go. Those trips have so many amazing memories to me and it’s all thanks to Tony.”
It’s hard to imagine the Alaska baseball landscape without Wylie. He was a staple at the fields. He knew everybody, and everyone knew him.
His towering shadow will always loom large over Alaska.
“Coach Wylie was the most passionate person I’ve ever met,” Nading said. “He was a proud husband, an unbelievable father and grandfather, diehard Raiders fan, but most of all coaches for kids all over the state of Alaska. He spent so much time scouting and calling parents. All he wanted was to see Alaska baseball players and their families find opportunities to advance their lives on and off the field.”