Interview by Chad Zimmerman
In 2007, the traditionally powerful Cal State Fullerton baseball team capped off their season with another trip to the College World Series—their fourth in the past five years. Great recruiting has helped keep the Titans’ roster stocked with impressive talent and Cal’s program among the nation’s elite. Assistant coach and recruiting coordinator Jason Gill has played a key role in the team’s recruiting and player evaluation process. Here, he serves up five ways players can stand out on the diamond.
Finding the talented guy is easy; put a radar gun on the kid to see if he throws 92 miles per hour. Doing the research to find out how he throws in a 2-2 game in the sixth with the tying run on second is the hard part. Does he win or lose that battle? And how does he handle it? Is he better his next time on the mound, or does it blow him up? I try to figure out what’s in his heart and head.
With a pitcher, deception is good. I’ve seen guys who throw 92, but get lit up all over the field. Then I’ve seen guys who are a few inches shorter, throwing 87 or 88, but the other team can’t hit off them, because they don’t see the ball. I key in on that by looking at what kind of swings hitters take off a pitcher.
For hitters, I want to see how often a guy swings and misses. How often does he make solid contact? When he makes outs, what kind of outs are they? Does he make two-strike adjustments? Does he adjust to the pitcher? Good baseball players sit on the side watching the pitcher, then go up there with a plan. When you see a guy who does that, it’s like “Whoa, this guy knows what he’s doing. He understands the game.”
A lot of people forget about defense. If you ask most position players how they did today, none will say, “I had four ground balls hit to me, and I made all four plays.” They’ll say they were 0-4, 2-4 or 1-3 with an RBI. They don’t talk about defense, but we pay a lot of attention to it.
I like getting to the field as early as possible so I can see who gets there first. I’m hoping it’s the guy I came there to see. If he’s not there first, I want to see if he shows up late and if he’s there just because somebody else wants him to be.
Pitching in Showcases
If you’re the pitcher who comes out in the seventh inning during a showcase, watch the hitters the whole game. That way you won’t go out there and throw a changeup to a guy who can’t hit a fastball.
You don’t always have to have your game at showcases. You can still be a good baseball player if you go 0-4; it’s all about effort. I can see a guy go 0-4, but it’s about his competitiveness and how he goes about his business.
Effort is the one thing that sticks out in my mind. Take your catch play a little more seriously than the next guy. If you want to be a college or pro baseball player, you’re training for a job, so go about your business—but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun.