Prospect Q&A: Gretzky on his own journey

Cubs outfielder dreams of wearing dad's No. 99, winning World Series

Trevor Gretzky, a 2011 seventh-round Draft pick, hit .306 in 14 games at Class A last season. (Kane County Cougars)

By Danny Wild / | March 20, 2014 10:00 AM ET

Trevor Gretzky. The name immediately makes you think of someone else.

That ordinarily would not be a good thing as a professional athlete, but for Gretzky, it's something he's grown up with and embraced. He's a Cubs Minor Leaguer, an outfielder selected in the seventh round of the 2011 Draft who is better known in Canada than he is in his native U.S.

Yes, he's Wayne Gretzky's son. He's the 21-year-old child of "The Great One", the most famous hockey player of all time. He was born on Sept. 14, 1992, less than a month before his dad -- playing for the Los Angeles Kings -- began another of his 18 All-Star seasons. And he was only 6 when his father, who immortalized No. 99, retired on an emotional night at New York's Madison Square Garden.

Most would assume the son of hockey's all-time scoring leader would stay on skates, but Gretzky, who sounds like a younger version of his father, left hockey behind, focusing on football and baseball after the family moved back to L.A. There, he split time as a quarterback at Oaks Christian High School in Westlake Village with the son of NFL legend Joe Montana (the school earned the nickname Hollywood High). He turned down offers from colleges to pursue his dream of being a Major Leaguer with the Cubs and debuted with the organization's Rookie-level Arizona League affiliate in 2012, where he hit .304 in 35 games.

Gretzky moved up to short-season Boise last year, batting .256 in 27 games before earning a promotion to Class A Kane County. With the Cougars, the lefty-hitting outfielder batted .306 in 14 games, slugging his first career home run in front of his parents in the next-to-last game of the season.

Off the field, Gretzky may have the most intriguing social life of any Minor Leaguer. His mother, Janet, appeared in the iconic baseball film A League of Their Own and is still acting, while his sister, Paulina, is a singer, actress and model who recently graced the cover of Maxim magazine (she's also engaged to pro golfer Dustin Johnson, who has eight PGA Tour wins).

We caught up with Gretzky at Spring Training this week: You're attending your third Spring Training with the Cubs. What's it been like in Arizona as you enter this season in the Minors? What are you working on?

Trevor Gretzky: It's pretty good, I'm working hard. It's good to get out here and get the season going again. You're at home for so long, so we're all just excited to be out here working and getting amped up. Take me back to Draft day in 2011. When you got called by the Cubs, I'm guessing you had a feeling Chicago was interested -- what was it like to get taken in the seventh round?

Gretzky: It was a real special moment for me and my family. Just growing up in a house where we all loved sports, it was such a cool opportunity to be given the chance to play for a great organization like the Chicago Cubs. Anywhere would have been a great opportunity, but it makes it that much more special to go to the Cubs.

Editor's note: Gretzky was traded by the Cubs to the Los Angeles Angels for Matt Scioscia on March 20, 2014, a day after giving this interview. You were heavily recruited by colleges as a quarterback and you had opportunities to play baseball collegiately at San Diego State. How difficult was the decision to leave football and college behind and join the Cubs? What advice did your dad give you?

Gretzky: He never pushed me either way, he wanted me to do my own thing. I was pretty much forced out of football with my shoulder injury, but I always knew at a young age I would go back to baseball. It just so happened it worked out with the Draft. I was hurt, I got an opportunity and kinda ran with it. You were high school football teammates with Nick Montana and Trey Smith, the sons of Joe Montana and actor Will Smith. What was that like, getting all that attention?

Gretzky: Yeah, it was unnecessary attention -- they were normal guys. We were just a bunch of kids working hard and playing high school football with our buddies, nothing much different from the other schools in our area. You hit your first professional home run last September with Kane County, your parents watching from the stands. There's a story that says your grandmother asked you to hit one for her that week?

Gretzky: Yeah, she gave me a call earlier that day. Anytime you can do something -- I got the opportunity to go up to Kane County those last couple weeks, so to go up and contribute was really special for me. To hit a home run to help the team get a "W," that's what you're there for. What was last year like for you overall? You got your first authentic Minor League experience, above the Arizona League, at Boise in 2013.

Gretzky: It was huge for me. These past 2 1/2 years, I've learned more about baseball than ever, just being in this program and playing every day you learn so much. They teach us to be a student of the game -- none of us are where we want to be, so there's a lot of work ahead of us. You just want to go out and get 1 percent better every day. Did you have teammates come up and ask you about your dad? Have any of them somehow not heard of him?

Gretzky: Oh, yeah, a lot of guys. We're in America, he's an ice hockey player -- it's not that big in Southern California and the Dominican Republic, they don't know him too much. And that's kinda cool. I can go out there and play baseball and be one of the guys, they don't treat me differently. Amazing. And talk about being treated differently, when Boise traveled to Vancouver last year, the Canadian media swarmed in to see you. What was it like to be in that situation? I'm guessing you heard a lot of the same questions over and over.

Gretzky: Anytime me or my family goes up to Canada, it's pretty special. My dad -- the things that hockey has done for him and all of what Canada has done for him and my family is tremendous. The welcoming he gets is phenomenal, it's pretty special for me and my family. The Cubs promoted you to Kane County toward the end of last season. Was that a goal of yours entering 2013? What was the jump like, moving to the Midwest League and facing those pitchers?

Gretzky: I didn't have a goal to get to a level, just to learn more about the game, get the experience. Wherever they put me, I would work hard and get better. It didn't matter, I just wanted to play. When I went up to the Midwest League, I started -- MJ, our manager, Mark Johnson, gave me an opportunity to play every day and I ran with it and had a good couple of weeks. Have you been told to, or made an effort, to put on some weight and muscle this offseason as you progress? Is that something you think needs to happen for your career to really take off?

Gretzky: Oh, yeah, that's huge for me. Ever since [football] surgery, I lost a lot of weight. I've put on about 25 pounds this offseason and a big part is a lot of time in the weight room. During the season, I'm even in there a lot. That's a big thing for my career. Wow, how were you able to just gain 25 pounds?

Gretzky: A lot of eating [laughs]. You could list as much food as you want, if you don't eat the right way, it won't work. I've finally got it dialed in -- eating right will get you there. Yeah, I'm trying that, but for the opposite result.

Gretzky: Right [laughs]. The Cubs are really loaded with elite prospects, guys like Jorge Soler and Javier Baez and Albert Almora. Is there an eagerness, an optimism among the younger guys in the system to get up and turn this club back into a contender?

Gretzky: Oh, of course, the amount of talent that we have in the Minors is awesome. These guys, I look up to a lot of these guys. The vibe in Minor League camp, it's spectacular, the energy we have. I have a feeling the Cubs should be pretty good in the next couple years with the guys we have. You had a chance to learn about hitting from George Brett when your dad was coaching the Coyotes in Phoenix. Your dad said last year, "The name has given him some advantages. It opens doors, but in the end he's got to perform on his own." What was it like working out with Brett and how has the family name helped you in your career?

Gretzky: It's helped me in the way I've gotten the opportunities to work with guys like Brett and people of that stature, but when it comes down to it, when you're in Minor League Spring Training games and you go 0-for-3, you know you're not going to play the next day. I've realized that from a young age, I'm trying to go out and work hard like everyone else. I'm sure reporters love to ask you about living in your dad's shadow and making a name for yourself in something that isn't hockey. Did you ever feel pressure or some obligation that you had to stick with hockey?

Gretzky: Absolutely not, no. My dad and mom let me do whatever I wanted to do sports-wise. They introduced me to everything, hockey, baseball -- when I moved out to LA for good, it was all football and baseball; none of my friends were playing hockey. The nearest rink was an hour away. I gravitated to baseball and that was it. I've read your love of baseball was sparked at Yankee Stadium. What happened that day? Did you have a favorite baseball team or player growing up?

Gretzky: Always Derek Jeter, the way he conducts himself on and off the field, you know he's the captain. I remember going with my dad, when he played for the Rangers, as a little kid and seeing Jeter was awesome. Have you ever met him?

Gretzky: When I was younger, I met him, but I was a little kid. There's a great photo you posted on Instagram of a family Christmas card, with fake snow falling and sweaters and whatever. It looks like it could be an ad for a reality TV show. Your dad's fame goes without saying, but your mom is still acting, your sister is on the cover of magazines, you're a Cubs prospect. ... What's it been like growing up Gretzky, growing up around that atmosphere?

Gretzky: Nothing different. I don't know, we're a regular family, we all work hard. My dad and mom taught us to work hard; nothing is given to us. My brother [Ty] is in business school at [Arizona State] now. We were just instilled to work hard. You're active on social media and have a lot of followers, and it's something that gives fans a look into your life off the field. There are Instagram photos of you with Drake, ringside with Manny Pacquiao, with your family at NHL games, on the set of Conan, at the Hockey Hall of Fame. ... there's even some of you flying planes and hand-feeding dolphins. You just reached Class A and it kind of sounds like the script of one of those "Most Interesting Man in the World" commercials.

Gretzky: (Laughs) You know, I never thought about it all until you just listed all of that. But no, I don't know. Like I said, I've been blessed with so many opportunities because of my father, but I want to be a baseball player, and I'm working hard like all the other guys. It's been my dream since I was a little kid, to get to the big leagues and win a World Series. Your dad had some superstitions when he played, from putting on equipment to pregame meals. Do you have any?

Gretzky: Not really. I've gotta eat before the game, but I'm not superstitious at all. A lot of baseball players are really superstitious, but other than the routine every day with the tee and hitting, nothing. You've worn No. 9, 19 and 29 so far. I'm guessing the nine is a nod to dad, but let's say you reach the Majors, what number are you going with on the back of your Cubs jersey?

Gretzky: It's always been a dream to wear No. 99. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to wear it one day. That's irrelevant right now -- I've got to focus on getting my career where I want it to be.

Danny Wild is an editor for Follow his MLBlog, where he writes the Minoring in Twitter column.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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