The Gulf Coast League opened its season on June 22nd, and, as always, there was a mixture of rehabbing players combined with recent draftees.
The GCL Yankees began their 2015 schedule on the road against the Braves affiliate, winning the matchup 5-2, on what was a 104 degree day. For any of those guys not used to playing in that kind of weather, they sure got a taste.
Braves manager Robinson Cancel spoke post-game about some of the guys who got in the game that day.
On starting pitcher Luis Gamez: He threw the ball really well. He got into trouble a little but, he got out of it. He was drafted last year, and this is his second time in GCL . He’s just nineteen-years-old.
On 2015 Braves Draftees: [Lucas] Herbert [2nd round, 54th overall] caught the ball really well. Dalton [Geekie, 22nd round] threw the ball good. He was able to throw the breaking ball for strikes.
On his First Year Managing in the GCL: I was in Danville last year in [Appalachian] League. I have to be patient with these kids. They’re a work in progress. We need to get them in a better routine and in better habits every day.
You can follow Lucas Herbert on Twitter @lucasherbert_ and Dalton Geekie @DaltonGeekie.
Jaret Hellinger ‘Excited’ to Play for Favorite Childhood Team
On the night of the June MLB Draft, McDonough, Georgia native Jaret Hellinger heard something he wasn’t expecting.
In the 20th round, the righty hurler was selected by the Atlanta Braves, a team that he hadn’t even realize was in play. The Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, and Arizona Diamondbacks all expressed interest. But the Braves, they came out of nowhere in the final hours.
“Those are who were I was really expecting. Oh yeah…big surprise,” Hellinger said Monday.
The dream of playing professionally is one huge matter, but playing for the team they rooted for brings another level of emotion to the experience, according to Hellinger.
“Since I was four years old, I’ve been a Braves fan at heart. It was always a dream. So when the option came, I just asked myself ‘When else am I going to get this opportunity?’ “ All my friends are Braves fans. This makes it even more exciting.”
As a senior pitcher for Ola High School, it was reported that he topped out at 93 on the radar. He finished that season with 50 strikeouts under his belt. He needed to make that kind of strong impression heading into the draft, having gone through elbow tendinitis. He missed a month of valuable work. Ultimately, Atlanta saw something in a guy who hadn’t been a pitcher all that long.
“I was a three-sport athlete. Then in the 10th grade, I started pitching. I was a 6-2 lefty, and I realized I should probably try and pitch. But I was young. So I just kept working and working and trying to gain weight,” said Hellinger.
Hellinger said he’s working on strengthening his hips and continuing to gain weight. At eighteen, he projects to fill out his frame more in the next couple of years.
Even as he’s focusing on the work ahead, the boyhood dream still lingers a little.
“It’s amazing, because two days before the draft, I was at the Braves game watching them play.”
Follow Jaret Hellinger on Twitter @JaretHellinger
Report on Bradley Keller:
Another lifelong Braves fan, Bradley Keller, was drafted in the 15th round out of Crest High (Shelby, North Carolina) and reported to the GCL to start his career.
He was in the outfield, a position he reportedly feels is his most natural. He finished 2015 as the South Mountain Conference Player of the Year and had been committed to Western Carolina University.
The 6-1 195 pounder showed some pop at the plate, and showcased his speed on the bases. He stood out on that squad, doing little things that drew your eyes to him. Early in the game he hit the first pitch toward center for a single, exhibiting a smooth swing and quick bat. His speed getting over there was a clear strength and he showed a ton of hustle as the ball dropped in for a hit. When he advanced to second he did so with a mix of grit and smarts, getting under the tag in time. He later scored a run.
You can follow Bradley Keller on Twitter @keller_bradley
Look for continued GCL Braves coverage, and expanded GCL coverage, here and on Minor League Ball in the next week.