G-A graduate signs with Cincinnati Reds
Myles Gayman's reputation as being a lights-out pitcher preceded him in high school, when, as a rising junior, the Greencastle-Antrim High School graduate signed with the University of Virginia.
That was before he finished an illustrious scholastic career with the Blue Devils and chose to pursue the college route after getting some overtures from Major League Baseball teams out of high school.
Four years and two colleges later, Gayman got the call, this time from the Cincinnati Reds as an undrafted free agent. The tall, lanky and imposing right-handed hurler passed his physical and signed his rookie contract this past week in Arizona and is now back home getting ready for the next step.
"Playing pro baseball has been a goal of mine," Gayman said Saturday, two days after returning home from Goodyear, Ariz., where the Reds conduct spring training. "I've got my foot in the door; it's my first step toward that goal."
Gayman's strides in his chosen sport come as no surprise to just about everyone who has seen him on the diamond, including former high school coach Eric Shaner.
"Myles was one of those guys that I knew would be special after I saw about three bullpen sessions his freshman year," Shaner said. "He had traits that just stood out. He controlled his body well; he had pretty good mechanics. He threw strikes, commanded both sides of the plate and kept the ball down. I also saw his curve ball, which as a freshman was already tight and nasty. But he could also throw it pretty much wherever he wanted. That is very unusual for a ninth-grader."
Shaner added that the Blue Devils had an established starting pitcher in Ryan Ricci, who helped mentor Gayman and gave G-A the luxury of having 1-A and 1-B starters, something that helped propel the Blue Devils to a District 3 championship in 2013.
Gayman, the son of Jamie and Kristina Gayman, spent two years at Penn State University before transferring to Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla.
"When I was in high school, I had pro aspirations. Going to college, the expectations were a lot different than what happened. I had my ups and downs, physical and mental setbacks. At the end of the day, it was a learning process for me. I appreciate every moment in college. It gave me an opportunity to work through some stuff."
It also enabled him the time to develop as a pitcher, he said. Doing so in college afforded him the leeway to make mistakes along the way; otherwise, as Gayman went on to say, "I might have been out of a job."
A turning point came for Gayman when former travel team coach Mark Shives mentioned Barry University. When Penn State granted Gayman his release, the 2016 Greencastle-Antrim High School graduate was on a fast track to the south Florida school, where most of his coaches had pitching backgrounds.
"I absolutely loved it," Gayman said of his two years at Barry. "My early years in college were more of a mental setback for me — the demand of being a college athlete as well as a student was more than I anticipated. My junior year in Miami wasn't the greatest, but I felt like I was on an upward trend. That led me to this year. Going there was like a fresh start for me. No matter how much I struggled, the coaching staff was very patient with me. They never gave up on me."
As a junior in 2019, Gayman was second on the team in starts with 10, including the season opener. He struck out 27 batters in 43.2 innings.
"Coach (Juan) Ranero and pitching coach (Anthony) Nalepa worked with what I had," Gayman said. "There was some stuff I had to make adjustments with, no drastic changes, some mechanical adjustments to make me more smooth and efficient."
Gayman's fast ball had been clocked in the 90s since high school. It was his offspeed pitches that he began focusing on. One of them, a slider, he said he added this year.
"The slider for me is a difference maker, not just the pitch but landing those offspeed pitches for strikes early and late in the counts," Gayman said. "When you get behind hitters no matter what the level, as a hitter you know a fast ball is coming. The slider ended up being one of my best pitches."
Gayman, listed at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds on the Buccaneers roster, started picking up steam this past season. He was 4-0 in six appearances. He pitched a complete game against Florida Southern on Feb. 29, giving up seven hits while striking out six and walking none. Gayman recorded 33 Ks in 43.2 innings pitched and walked only eight batters. Probably most impressive was a 0.21 earned run average.
But before he could gather even more force, Gayman saw the remainder of the 2020 season canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
And, with the minor league season also shut down for the remainder of the summer, Gayman is hoping for a fall camp in Arizona starting some time around late August or early September.
One person who probably sees Gayman's lag time differently than others is Shaner.
"The thing about Myles is that everyone sees the big 90 miles per hour plus fast ball and the unhittable curve ball, but what people don't see is what went into that," Shaner said. "Don't get me wrong. Myles is supremely talented, but what sets him apart is his drive, focus and work ethic. He is that extremely rare total package. He got to college and put muscle on that frame, and now he looks like a pitcher you would design in a lab.
"I would literally leave him at the field by himself in darkness and in rain at times because he had running he wanted to get in before he went home following practices or games. It is not normal to have that kind of drive, but when it comes to baseball there is not much about Myles Gayman that is not elite. He was a dream to coach. He had no ego. Most superstars struggle to hear they aren't doing something right. Myles almost challenged me in a good way to find things wrong with his bullpens so he could improve."
Gayman admitted that the time frame from the cancellation of the season until the draft was trying, requiring a lot of patience let alone confidence giving him the inner certainty that he had what it takes to play at the professional level.
He said he considered using the extra year of eligibility granted seniors and that one of the interview questions addressed that possibility.
"It was a waiting game," Gayman said. "The Reds reached out to me a week or two before the draft and asked if I would be willing to sign or go back to school. I heard from them after the draft. I spoke to a couple people from the front office. It was a stressful process, a lot of phone calls between me and scouts and my adviser. They made me an offer, I went to Arizona to get the physical and ended up signing."
In the meantime, Gayman and high school teammate and catcher Quin Ambeault have been working out together.
"We meet up five or six times a week," Gayman said. "It helps me stay on the same schedule I've been on."
Gayman added that he received an email earlier in the week from the franchise's farm system director informing Gayman of an orientation meeting next week on Zoom.
"There will be something every day," Gayman said. "I'll get to speak with strength coaches, the pitching development side, also a nutritionist. I'll be getting to meet everyone on staff. They're putting together a work out plan for me throughout the summer."