Tyler Naquin's love of hunting is deep-rooted in family memories.
It is safe to say that 2020 has been a very weird year for everyone. Sadly, one of the first consistent things we lost to the Covid-19 pandemic was sports, and most of us did not realize how much we missed them until they were gone. Thankfully, a Major League Baseball season is finally underway, albeit a rather strange one. It will surely be a season that baseball, and sports fans everywhere, will not soon forget.
We were recently able to catch up with some prominent MLB players who share our same love of the outdoors, especially hunting and fishing. What we found were some down-to-earth pro athletes who unwind much in the same way as us, getting outside with a rod or rifle whenever possible.
Today we are speaking with Texas native and Cleveland Indians outfielder Tyler Naquin. Since being selected by Cleveland in the first round of the MLB draft in 2012, Naquin worked his way onto the team and has improved greatly with every season. In 2016 he made highlight reels worldwide after hitting a rare walk off, inside the park home run to help his team to a 3-2 win over Toronto. So far in 2020, he's having a stellar year, batting .284 and has 27 home runs and 107 RBIs in this unusual, pandemic-shortened season.
When Naquin is not on the field, he's a die-hard hunter and fisherman. He was extremely enthusiastic to talk not just about his favorite hobbies, but how time in the outdoors created a close bond with his father and brother that continues to this day.
Q&A with Tyler Naquin of the Cleveland Indians
WOS: With the coronavirus outbreak, did you get outside hunting and fishing more this spring? Or was your focus still on spring training?
Naquin: "With the outbreak I wasn't able to hunt or anything. I actually tore my ACL/meniscus, so, as soon as we had to leave spring training facilities I came straight to Ohio to continue getting ready for the season. My job allows me to hunt and fish how I'd like to, so therefore, that comes first. I do have my bow with me to practice. My friends ship their arrows to me so I can build and fletch them and make them tune exactly how they want for their bow. Any aspect of hunting or fishing is a good time. I was able to team up with Cleveland fishing company here in Ohio and do an Instagram Big Bass Challenge. For one full month, anyone in Ohio had the chance to post a largemouth with a piece Cleveland Fishing Co. Merchandise or they had to do the "rock on" sign from my inside the park homer while holding the fish to make sure it was a honest picture! We had a ton of entries and the winner got some gear from them, and a team signed engraved bat, which was awesome!"
WOS: How difficult is it to squeeze in hunting and fishing with the challenges of being a pro ballplayer?
Naquin: "Fitting hunting into my lifestyle has its ups and down. I'm not really home enough to scout and prep a lot. But my brother is on top of it all. He loves scouting rivers and lakes for ducks. That man is always up to something and figuring new things out. Although, I do get the offseason which is during hunting season so, I'm very thankful for that!"
WOS: Tell us where your love for fishing started. Has it changed over the years? Has it been affected by your career?
Naquin: "My love and passion for hunting and fishing started from my Dad. Ever since I can remember, he was always taking me and my brother out in the bass boat. I remember being in the deer stand sleeping on the floor when I was just a bit too little, but we always created some great memories. My Dad woke me up when my brother was getting ready to harvest a turkey! It was always us three either fishing or hunting. I was around the boys always. From my first dove, duck, and deer, I remember it all. The only thing that has changed is how much my love for it has grown. I enjoy every second of being with my dad and brother, whether were just talking or on a hunting/fishing trip. To this day I talk to my dad, mom and brother every single day!"
WOS: Do you hunt or fish with any of your baseball friends?
Naquin: "I have had a chance to hunt with a few guys in baseball. Daniel Mengden, Ross Stripling, Jameson Tallion, Tyler Kolek and Daniel Norris. I hunted with each of them once. I was able to be with Forest Whitley and have him shoot his first deer which was a cool experience! Normally everyone lives so far apart, so it's always normally my brother plus one of our friends or just him and I going!"
WOS: What are your top hunting and fishing tips for someone new to the sport?
Naquin: "A few tips for people just getting into the sport would be:
- Don't be afraid to ask questions or learn new things. We all start somewhere.
- Treat every firearm or weapon as if it was loaded at all times.
- Understand the process of harvesting an animal and conservation aspect of it.
- Enjoy it and spread the experience with friends and family. Just being outdoors and in nature is a really amazing feeling. Sometimes you don't always tag out or catch a limit of fish, but it's just the time spent with friends and family that you wouldn't trade for anything!"
WOS: Tell us about your favorite hunting or fishing memory.
Naquin: "I'm not sure that I have a favorite memory. I honestly enjoy being with my dad and brother hunting and fishing and I wouldn't change it for the world. My mom would also go, she loved going out on the bass boat and just genuinely loved being around us boys. Her brother, dad, and grandad influenced all of us a lot as well in hunting and fishing. All of my favorite memories include my dad teaching me and my brother Zac about the basics of hunting. My dad and brother are the hardest working blue collar dudes I know, and they are just all-around strong men that have shaped me into what I am. Every hunting story I have is with them and I always learned something. I respect both of them more than they know, if I don't know something or try to figure something out, they are the first ones I go to."
WOS: What is your favorite hunting or fishing season and why?
Naquin: "My favorite hunting season is probably duck/whitetail season. A lot of prep goes into both of those and it's such a good time even just scouting and getting stuff ready! Although we are getting into the mountains. We are excited to be going elk and mule deer hunting this season. It's going to be a regular thing every season from now on!"
WOS: When you hunt, do you bowhunt or rifle hunt and why?
Naquin: "In the past few years bow hunting has consumed me. I'm a big fan of it. My dad had a bow that I would always try to pull back and I was fascinated with it always. My brother and I had one when we were younger and loved them. I enjoy shooting as well. And shot my first few deer with my dad's rifle that he used. Learning from him about both is special to me. I'd have to say that bow hunting is the only hunting I'll be doing from now on aside from duck hunting of course. I go to a shop in College Station, Texas called Live Oak Archery. John Royder and the guys there have given me tips to learn on arrows and tuning the bow. I take pride in learning and understanding my tools. My apartment in Ohio is basically a small bow shop. Now, I basically do all my own stuff for the most part. Here and there I may need some guidance, but I love learning and figuring new things out.
I figured that when I go on big hunts and something happens to my bow. I want to be prepared and ready to re-tie a peep sight, rest cord or anything that may get banged up during a hunt. I also follow a guy by the name of Cameron Hanes on Instagram and have taken some stuff from him as well. If you want to see dedication and a strong way of life, then you need to look this guy up. My favorite part is that Cameron isn't an athlete or big-time celebrity. From day one, he put his nose to the grindstone and has built a platform for himself and others around him. The amount of people he reaches and motivates through his passion is incredible. The passion and dedication he puts into it isn't for everyone, and that's exactly why guys like my brother and I, and a few of our friends are drawn to someone like him. The easiest thing to do is be average and go through the motions. My brother and I hunt hard, and it's a dang blast every single time."
WOS: Public land or private land hunting?
Naquin: "I personally try to hunt private land. A lot of the time though when duck hunting, we do public such as lakes, rivers and down in the marsh of south Texas, which is an absolute blast. Although I'm just getting into some of my first elk and mule deer hunts, I couldn't be more excited about it."
WOS: What are your favorite outdoor brands?
Naquin: "Some of my favorite hunting brands are:
- Kuiu, Sitka, and First Lite. The gear is absolutely awesome the way it fits and performs.
- Duck hunting- we have a Prodigy boat with a Mud Buddy motor. My brother and I shoot Benelli SBE2 and use Kent Fast Steel or Black Cloud.
- As far as our bows, I personally shoot a Hoyt RX4 Ultra 83#. My brother Zac shoots the Hoyt rx4 turbo 76#. We are both shooting Black Eagle X-Impact shafts with Muzzy Trocar fixed blades. I just believe that if you shoot a bow, get what brand you like and what fits you!"
WOS: What is your favorite big game species and why?
Naquin: "So far a whitetail is the biggest game that I have harvested. I'm looking to bow hunt every and anything though. Elk and mule deer are up for this season and I am absolutely thrilled for it. There's many more such as moose, antelope, Kudu, Red stag, and fallow that I'm extremely looking forward to as well."
WOS: Are you planning a career in the hunting industry post-baseball? If so, what do you hope to do?
Naquin: "As of now, Zac and I are starting an outdoor apparel company. It's something that I plan on doing after baseball. We absolutely love to hunt and fish, It's been in our family forever. We are looking to share our experiences and bring to life our visions. It's something that is a part of us. We have a passion for this that was instilled in us from great men in my family. My brother and I have a vision for this and want to grow it to help motivate others who love the sport as much as we do. It doesn't matter what gun or bow you shoot, if you enjoy the outdoors and respect the game your after then it's a win. Even if you're just getting into hunting for the first time. At the end of the day whatever we do, we go all in. That being said, the only way to be is to be relentless in the journey."