By: VYTAS MAZEIKA - Bay Area News Group
John Gavin must still be pinching himself after a lifelong dream turned into reality Tuesday afternoon when the San Francisco Giants took a hometown kid in the eighth round of the 2017 MLB Draft.
“It was first shock and then I started yelling and jumping up and down, and then I actually kind of broke down and started crying,” Gavin said during a conference call with the media. “I mean, this has literally been a dream of mine since I was 5 years old to get drafted by the San Francisco Giants. …
“And I still don’t believe that this is actually happening.”
The 21-year-old remembers watching a Giants-Dodgers game from the stands at AT&T Park as a second-grader. He skipped school at St. Francis High in Mountain View as a sophomore to attend the Giants’ parade after their 2012 World Series title.
Then, as a freshman at Cal State Fullerton, he watched Madison Bumgarner step out of the bullpen to toss five shutout innings of relief to clinch Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, while the rest of his teammates at Fullerton rooted against the Giants.
“There is so many memories and it is absolutely incredible that this is happening,” Gavin said.
“I’m wearing a Madison Bumgarner jersey as we speak right now,” he added. “That was one of the first things I did. It was hanging in my room and I had to put it on.”
The 6-foot-6, 230-pound left-handed pitcher, who is slotted for a $154,200 signing bonus as the 246th overall pick, was by himself watching streaming coverage of the draft on MLB.com, but the feed was lagging.
That’s why Gavin was confused when he was contacted by Cory Vanderhook, the director of baseball operations at Fullerton.
“He just sent me a text saying Giants with a bunch of exclamation points and I had no idea what that meant,” said Gavin, who went in the 39th round of the 2014 MLB Draft to the Milwaukee Brewers, but did not sign. “And then I saw that the Giants had the next pick and I thought, ‘No way possible.’ I turn it up and I see my name get called and the emotions that I just said came through. And that was that.”
The story gets better.
Cal State Fullerton (39-22) departs for Omaha, Neb., on Wednesday morning to participate in the College World Series for the 18th time in program history.
A big reason the Titans are one of eight NCAA Division I teams still playing is the hulking southpaw.
He struck out 10 over seven strong innings in Sunken Diamond to beat Stanford at its NCAA Regional on the first weekend of June, then eight days later threw his first complete-game shutout at Long Beach State in an elimination game of that Super Regional.
“It feels almost like every childhood dream that I’ve had has been coming true, becoming a reality in a matter of 14, 15 days,” said Gavin, who also made the trip to Omaha as a freshman in 2015. “I mean, I’m just so excited. I’m so fortunate for these last 14 days. I have so many people to thank that I can’t even begin to start and it is just an unbelievable feeling that I’m having right now and I’m just trying to enjoy the ride.”
Fourteen picks earlier in the MLB Draft, his former batterymate at St. Francis was also taken in the eighth round.
Tim Susnara, a 6-1, 195-pound catcher at Oregon, went to the Los Angeles Angels at 232nd overall.
“I was looking for his name the whole entire day and I’m really pumped for him,” Gavin said. “Jason Dietrich, my old pitching coach and now his current (assistant) coach, thought it was so ironic that me and Timmy got drafted in the same round and right around the same time. I mean, him and I are what I’d like to think best friends. We stay in contact frequently and just talk the game and talk about life.”
Gavin began playing against Susnara in the travel ball circuit at roughly the age of 11 or 12.
They gravitated toward each other as freshmen at St. Francis and were both called up to varsity as sophomores.
“It was awesome, where him and I would just be on the same wavelength almost every single time we came out,” Gavin said. “He’s a big reason of where I am today and I tell him a bunch. Can’t thank him enough for everything he’s done for me and I miss him.”
Gavin brings a three-pitch repertoire to the mound, with a fastball that sits at 89-92 mph, but he can ramp it up if necessary. His out-pitch is a change-up, with the ability to also keep hitters off balance with a slider.
He’s solidified the No. 2 spot on the rotation for the Titans, who needed him most after dropping the opener of a best-of-three Super Regional against their Big West rival.
“I knew what I had to do once the last out of Game 1 ended,” Gavin said. “And I think my parents were joking with me that was probably the first time in my 21-year existence that I actually didn’t finish my dinner. They said I looked locked in and ready to go.”
After scattering seven hits and two walks over nine scoreless innings, while striking out five, his ERA in three starts against Long Beach State lowered to 0.42.
For the season, Gavin is 8-2 with a 2.67 ERA, with 89 strikeouts over 101 innings.
He won’t pitch Saturday against No. 1 Oregon State (54-4) in the opening game of the College World Series, but at some point in Omaha expect to see the left-hander on the big stage.
“These big games are what I live for, what I dream of,” Gavin said.
Then it’s a matter of negotiating a contract with the Giants, which has a minor league affiliate that plays home games at San Jose Municipal Stadium.
It’s a locale quite familiar to Gavin, who as a junior at St. Francis tossed a one-hitter against West Catholic Athletic League rival Serra in the 2013 Central Coast Section Division I championship game at San Jose Muni.
“Hopefully soon here I can make it to the High A team in San Jose,” Gavin said, “where I made the last out of the CCS championship game — and I can play there for a little bit.”
After all, his sights are set on AT&T Park.