The headlines in The Australian Baseball Digest proclaimed, Twins sign Aussie schoolboy.
Suddenly the life of 17-year-old Belmont High School student Sam Gibbons was altered. He will finish his grade 12 in Australia and next spring will report to Fort Myers, Fla. for spring training.
Gibbons admitted that it was all so overwhelming and said, “I’m sure it hasn’t sunk in yet,” and added, “I didn’t get much sleep the first night.”
The news release on the Geelong Baycats website stated, “While spring training is nine months off, Sam Gibbons has plenty on the agenda to occupy his time in the interim [including a trip] with the Baycats to the Grand Forks International.”
His coach, Nathan Holmes, was obviously thrilled with the signing and says this about his young prospect, “If ever anyone deserves this opportunity, he does. He is living proof that hard work and perseverance will pay off in the end.”
Gibbons actually rejected an offer from the Boston Red Sox before he inked the deal with the Minnesota Twins. He is not the first resident from Geelong – located beside beautiful Corio Bay in the state of Victoria – to attract interest from Major League Baseball.
Graeme Lloyd played several seasons in the majors, helping the New York Yankees to two World Series titles in 1996 and 1998, and recently the San Diego Padres called up pitcher Josh Spence, who has been nothing short of spectacular in his first 22 games.
His earned run average (ERA) is a measly 1.61, as of Aug. 15.
Perhaps Sam Gibbons can ride this hometown inspiration to a pro career.
The team bio sent to the Grand Forks International a few weeks prior to this story evolving, says this about him: “After spending the 2010 season learning to be a catcher, Gibbons changed battery roles in 2011, proving himself as one of the best junior pitchers in the state of Victoria.”
Then, somewhat prophetically, it continues, “Gibbons is currently receiving a lot of attention from MLB scouts after his impressive performance in the National Junior Championship Series.”
The right-handed pitcher is described as a humble, mature and self-sufficient individual and is most appreciative of the support and encouragement he has received from his baseball coaches and makes particular mention of his mother, Leanne.
This young Baycat player also seems to have things in perspective when he says, “I know it is just the start of a very long road but it’s still hard to believe that it has happened.”
An elated Holmes expressed what many involved in baseball in Geelong, Australia, and anywhere in Canada for that matter, would say, “It’s so exciting to see players get these opportunities. It makes everything that we try to do worthwhile.”
I would think that fans at the 2011 GFI will also share a tinge of exhilaration. How fortunate this city has been to host an event for 31 years that is filled with many great stories. Sam Gibbons will be at James Donaldson Park before he steps on a Major League training facility next spring in Florida. How good is that?