Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Family and friends invaded Alec Gamboa’s yard to celebrate Gamboa getting drafted in the ninth round by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday.
Madera’s Alec Gamboa was selected in the ninth round of the MLB First-Year Player draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday, completing a journey of baseball that started in the Madera American Little League.
“It’s unbelievable to get drafted,” he said. “It’s unreal. You think about this as a kid in Madera American Little League and you are getting older, it might become a reality some day. You keep working hard and here it is.”
Gamboa, who is a lifelong Los Angeles Dodgers fan, was the Central Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year for Fresno City College and had a circuitous route to the selection.
Gamboa, who was an All-Madera Tribune Most Valuable Player and Pitcher of the Year in 2014 and 2015, helped lead the Coyotes to the Div. II championship in 2013.
He began his collegiate career at Fresno State, but suffered an elbow injury and redshirted his freshman season.
He underwent Ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction, also known as Tommy John surgery. It is a surgical graft procedure where the ulnar collateral ligament in the medial elbow is replaced with either a tendon from elsewhere in the patient’s body, or tendon from donated tissue of a cadaver.
After undergoing Tommy John Surgery in 2016, Gamboa transferred from Fresno State to Fresno City College and had an outstanding 2019 season with the Rams.
“It’s definitely been a crazy journey, for sure,” Gamboa said. “There were times during the rehab process with the Tommy John procedure, there were definitely times I wanted to quit. There were times I stopped my rehab. After thinking about it, I realized there were a lot of people in Madera that are pushing for me, so I definitely had to get back on the grind.”
Gamboa helped lead the Rams to the CVC title and was 7-1 this season with a 1.96 ERA with 88 strikeouts in 55 innings pitched. Overall, he had a 1.97 ERA with 97 strikeouts in 64 innings.
“I was supposed to be ready when the season started, but I wasn’t,” he said. “I was ready about a month into the season. Once I started going, I was going. I didn’t stop from there. I struggled at the beginning. I gave up three earned runs in two innings in my first start and got pulled. After that, my arm kept feeling better and better after every start. I kept progressing and that was the key for me.”
Gamboa said his fastball topped out at 93 miles per hour, but averaged from 89-92.
Gamboa went to Dodger Stadium last week for a workout and impressed the scouts.
“I just killed it,” he said. “When I was playing catch, I could feel the ball coming out really good. I went to the bullpen, the catcher said I had some nasty stuff. I told him I hadn’t been throwing like this. I went to the main mound and did my workout. I could hear comments behind me and the scouts behind the plate were looking at each other. After the workout, the guy running the workout shook my hand and says, ‘I hope we give you a call.’ I told him, ‘I hope so, too.’ I was at 88-92 at the workouts. I was hitting my zone. My slider and change-up were there.”
After waiting through the first two rounds of the draft on Monday, Gamboa got a call later that night that he might be selected Tuesday. Gamboa, who received a full scholarship from Keiser University in West Palm Beach, was told by the Dodgers to keep his phone with him at all times.
“He said they were going to give them a call. I really didn’t expect to go this high with my age, 22, and experience. I expected to be drafted in the 11th through 40th round. I’m in my room, door shut watching the computer. About the eighth round, I get back-to-back texts. One was from the Dodgers and the other was from the Philadelphia Phillies. They asked what my signability was and I said I was ready to go. The Dodgers called and asked if I was 100 percent in and I said I was. He said they were going to get me. We came to an agreement. Sure enough, we were sitting by the computer and they call me up and that was it. Celebration for sure. It was celebration because I was drafted. I didn’t care even if it was the Giants. With the Dodgers, it’s crazier.”
Dodgers scout Tom Kunis drove up from Los Angeles to get Gamboa’s signature on the dotted line to begin his professional career. Gamboa signed in front of about 50 family and friends at his home. Kunis left the party saying he doesn’t drive three hours to sign just anybody, hinting that the Dodgers have big plans for Gamboa.
“I’m taking off for Arizona to do a bunch of physicals and bullpens and that’s when minicamp starts.”
“I’m just a kid from Madera and look at this.”