A white envelope caught my eye as I approached my baseball locker. I picked the envelope up, not knowing what to expect. I read the headline of the letter it contained. Who were the Saugerties Stallions? Where was Saugerties?
I reached for my phone and searched, “Where is Saugerties?” I have been to New York State only twice in my life, both times to visit New York City.
“Saugerties is a town in Ulster County, New York, United States. The population was 19,482 at the 2010 census. The Town of Saugerties contains the Village of Saugerties in the northeast corner of Ulster County.”
Thank you, Wikipedia.
I lay my phone back down, and skimmed the rest of the letter with a grin. I was going to spend my summer playing in the Perfect Game collegiate baseball summer league for the Saugerties Stallions.
My journey to college baseball was not a smooth path. It was a brutal grind.
My dad was my very own personal trainer, the throwing partner who would never complain. As my catcher, he didn’t even wear shin guards. He and my mom were among the first to notice my potential for the game.
My Little League years gave way to high-school desires of playing Division 1 baseball. I knew I could succeed, but the idea that talent scouts would find me if I was good enough had evaporated over the past decade. Travel teams had monopolized the recruiting process. Playing local baseball in a small town of central Pennsylvania wouldn’t get me big-time looks. Might it be time to explore other options?
One day I met a man who would leave a huge impact on my life for the better. At the time, Brian Murtha, a former minor-league pitcher, was the pitching coach for Chandler baseball, a premier travel baseball organization. Spotting me throwing in the bullpen, he knew right then I would fit into their program nicely.
Murtha mentored me throughout my recruitment experiences. He got me the exposure to scouts I needed, and my aspiration of playing Division 1 baseball came true. I committed to play at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. I considered it my next stepping stone
My high expectations were not met. I felt letdown after letdown from the coaching staff, and to add to my year of struggles I threw out my back two weeks prior to the season opener. Though I was told I would get my chance to pitch in the next game, in reality I was being informally redshirted.
Following that season, I had a major decision to make. Should I transfer?
The transferring process was efficient. I researched which Division 1 schools I wanted to go to, and emailed a video of me pitching to several recruiting coordinators. A few minutes later I was committed to Elon University, where I now go to school, and I received a contract to play for the Woodstock River Bandits in the Valley collegiate summer league.
Heading to Woodstock, Virginia, I was anxious to display my talent and prove I belonged on their pitching staff. I was able to gain a quality role in the bullpen.
This role proved too much for my arm to handle. The coaches had me closing multiple games in a row, and my arm wasn’t in shape after sitting out an entire season. After only a few weeks I found myself at home rehabbing a shoulder injury.
This has only fueled my lust to play even more.
Anything can be in store for me this summer. Sitting out due to NCAA transfer rules has made me hungry to prove myself. Saugerties is my place to do this.
Gavin Hellman is a 6’4” 192 pound, right-handed pitcher from Hummelstown, Pennsylvania.