Courtesy of Phrake Photography
After waiting his whole life for his professional baseball career to start, Madera Coyotes standout Alec Gamboa will have a wait a few more months.
Gamboa, who had to leave Los Angeles Dodgers spring training without knowing where he was going to be assigned, is just waiting for the season to finally started.
“I’m keeping in contact with the Dodgers,” he said. “They are making sure we’re staying in shape and working out. It’s hard. They don’t expect us to full-blown work out, but whatever we can do, take advantage of it.”
Gamboa, who was a ninth round draft pick by his favorite team, has been in Madera for a month after spring training in Arizona was shut down.
“I’ve been working out about five times a week,” he said. “I’ve been getting the heart rate up, doing a lot of conditioning and throwing at the park. I play catch with Caleb Bertoncini. He’s pretty reliable so it’s good to have him to throw with. He’s a freshman at Fresno City.”
However, before he left spring training, Gamboa was told he was going to be used as a starting pitcher.
“That’s what I was told in Spring Training,” he said. “I just go out, do what I do and just pitch. I didn’t know what they wanted me to do, whether it be middle relief or be a starter. I was hoping it was a starter because I’ve been a starter my whole career. Maybe, the last couple of weeks before Spring Training ended, they wanted me to be a starter and expect to throw more than 100 innings this year. That fired me up a lot. I got on the five-day routine and figured that out.”
Because he has been a starting pitcher his whole life, the adjustment wasn’t great. However, he did have to learn about bullpen work and the routine.
“There’s a few things to work on,” he said. “A lot of the older guys in the organization have helped me a lot. The first thing that I hadn’t done in my five-day routine was throw a bullpen two days after my start. I started after my spring training. Throwing a bullpen caught me by surprise, but you have to do it. The more I did it, I felt more comfortable with it and my arm got in shape for it.”
Gamboa also said he learned a few things by watching the Major League pitchers throw in the same bullpen he threw in during spring training.
“They had us split up in Spring Training,” he said. “For a while, the Major League pitchers came and pitched in our bullpen. While they were throwing in our bullpen, we were able to stand 5-10 feet away. I got to see Joe Kelly, Walker Buehler, Kenley Jansen and top dogs throw bullpens. One thing that I enjoyed watching bullpens was the fact they took on their bullpens. You can see them so engaged on each pitch they threw and how focused they are. Being able to block out all the noise and focus on their pitches is great. It was fun to watch these guys throw a bullpen.”
Although he hasn’t been officially told, Gamboa thinks he will open his professional career in Michigan with the Great Lakes Loons, the Dodgers’ Single-A affiliate in the Midwest League based out of Midland, Michigan.
“They never told us where we were going,” he said. “They just sent us home. While we have been at home, they assigned us into groups. The group they assigned me to was the Great Lake Loons, which is low Single-A. I was thinking I was with the Loons. If you look on the MiLB.com page, it showed I was playing for the Loons. They never told me, but I figured I out and assumed I was going to be with the Loons.
“I had a meeting with my pitching coordinator, he said he wanted me to pitch in Michigan and asked how I would feel about pitching in the cold. This was in supposed to be for mid-April. I told him I wasn’t a fan of it. He said, most pitcher aren’t. He said I might be struggling on the mound, but being a hitter in the cold getting jammed with somebody throwing 90-plus. That was for sure to be a struggle. Obviously, that’s not the case, now.”
A life-long Dodgers fan, Gamboa has Zoom meetings ever few days and there are guest stars in the meeting, which makes the fanboy in Gamboa come out.
“It’s pretty cool because we’ve had meetings with Orel Hershiser, Nomar Garciaparra, Andre Ethier and all of these studs,” Gamboa said. “The organization knows I’m a Dodger fan. They know I love it. Getting to hear Andre Ethier hit stories. I remember watching that game and to know what was going through his head. Some of the coaches told us of certain games and I thought that was what was going on. It’s pretty cool to watch these guys.”
With the development Gamboa has seen within himself, he can’t wait for his first full professional season to get started.
“We have some of the best developmental coaches in baseball,” he said. “That’s why I have been throwing as hard as I am and pitching as good as I’ve been pitching. It was the best spot for me to land. I cant’ wait for this season to get started.”