Former Connecticut Tigers relief pitcher Drew Gagnier hasn't always made a name for himself coming out of the bullpen. There was a point in time when Gagnier was dreaming of playing Major League Baseball while manning a spot in the outfield for Santa Cruz High School in Santa Cruz, CA.
At Santa Cruz Gagnier earned first-team all-league accolades as an outfielder while leading his team to the SCCAL championship in 2006. Once Gagnier reached college, his arm led him to another spot on the field. First at Fresno State and later at the University of Oregon, Gagnier was given the opportunity to use his skills to grab the attention of Major League scouts atop the pitcher's mound.
Currently Gagnier is a relief pitcher with the Vermont Lake Monsters in the New York-Penn League. In five appearances, Gagnier has collected one victory for Vermont and continues to put up competitive numbers in the Oakland Athletics' minor league system with a 3.38 ERA.
In 2010 and 2011, Gagnier pitched for the Connecticut Tigers. In his debut season with the club in 2010, he posted an ERA just under three (2.95) and collected 38 strikeouts in 36.2 innings pitched. Gagnier was released by the Tigers on July 27, 2011 and three days later, he was signed by the Athletics to a minor league contract.
Recently, Gagnier made his return to Dodd Stadium when the Lake Monsters arrived for a three-game series against the Tigers. Gagnier took a few moments out of his pre-game routine to update fans on how things are going for the former Connecticut Tiger.
Ryan Maloney: How would you describe the experience of being drafted by a Major League baseball team and the process leading up to that day?
Drew Gagnier: When I was drafted by the Tigers, it was actually my second time being drafted. I was drafted by the A's in 2009, but it's always special and I was appreciative the Tigers gave me a chance to play for their organization. There were a bunch of teams interested. At the time, my older brother played in the Tigers farm system and I was having a great college season, so I had a feeling there may be some interest from the Tigers organization.
RM: Before landing with the Vermont Lake Monsters, your current team, last season you played for the Connecticut Tigers. What was that experience like, playing here at Dodd Stadium?
DG: It was good. Quality playing surface, Double-A field. I enjoyed the coaches and players in my time with the team. I thought that maybe my development may have been cut a little bit short in terms of opportunity but that just seems to be the way the Tigers run their minor league program, but I enjoyed my time here.
RM: What is the biggest difference you've seen so far between the Tigers farm system and the Oakland Athletics minor league system?
DG: I believe the Athletics give their players more time to develop and work more on developing their player as opposed to maybe paying them more, they put that investment into the development part of it. I think both organizations are top notch and it's been a pleasure playing for both of them.
RM: What part of your game are they currently allowing you time to work on and develop while pitching for the Lake Monsters that you weren't able to develop here with the Tigers?
DG: For me it's been basically pounding the strike zone, learning how to use all my pitches and, more specifically, developing a split finger fastball. This year I'm throwing five pitches. When I was with the Tigers, I only had three. I've had my velocity go down a bit since college so it's been helpful to learn how to use all my pitches to get people out.
RM: For a stretch of time, you and your brother, LJ, were both pitching in the Minor Leagues. Did you guys follow each others stats on-line, did you talk every night, what's it like having a sibling going through the same thing you are in working to make it to The Show?
DG: It was awesome. I would look him up and talk on the phone after each outing. I'd learn from him, even growing up and all through college I learned from him. He had an opportunity to win a National Championship in college with Cal State Fullerton and had a successful pro ball career, winning Triple-A Pitcher of the Year with Toledo for the Tigers so any questions I've had, I just talked to him.
RM: You and your brother clearly played baseball growing up. There is a trend now where parents are practically picking one sport for their kids to focus on solely. Did you play any other sports growing up and if so, did you find it beneficial playing many sports as opposed to focusing solely on baseball?
DG: Yeah, I'm a big advocate of playing as many sports as you can for as long as you can. Especially when you're younger, it helps with being athletic and when its time to choose, you'll know. I played football, basketball, golf growing up. I still golf on my off days but I believe playing a number of different sports helped me get to where I am today.
RM: What is the environment like in the bullpen during a game?
DG: The bullpen (laughs). The bullpen is a lot of small talk, kind of wasting time during the game until you get your turn to pitch. A lot of guys have similar stories so you can relate. Once you do get the call, it's time to focus.
RM: Any piece of advice you would give kids at any level looking to do what you are doing and make their own way to The Show?
DG: First, start off with your education. In high school, make sure you get the grades to play Division-I ball. If you have the talent and a great work ethic, you can definitely make it.
RM: And how is your season going overall? Anything you're looking forward to this year?
DG: I always look forward to going to Brooklyn and Staten Island. Those are my favorite places to play in the New York-Penn League. I think we have some quality catchers on the team that can call a good game and while we lost a couple at Dodd, I think we're really battling and staying competitive this season.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.