Gamboa ready for third season
For The Madera Tribune
Former Madera Coyote Valley Champion Alec Gamboa throws a pitch last year for the Great Lake Loons, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ High-A affiliate. Gamboa, who is entering his third year in the pros, is hoping to earn a spot on the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate in Tulsa.
Eight years ago, at about this time, Madera’s Alec Gamboa was celebrating in front of a packed Madera South Gym his 184-pound championship in the Central Section Master’s Tournament.
Fast forward to now and Gamboa is working out at the Los Angeles Dodgers’ training facility getting ready for his third professional season.
“I still consider myself a wrestler than a baseball player,” Gamboa said. “My whole family were wrestlers growing up. We all dreamed of winning a Valley title. The fact that I was able to do it in Madera meant a lot to me. I think about that all the time. I even watch the video, now and then.”
Gamboa looks back to that day and it helps him move on when he has bad days. That was a great year for Gamboa. In the spring of 2013, he led the baseball team to a Div. II Central Section Championship, had a great run with the football team and earned the wrestling Valley Championship.
“It was a nice year,” he said.
Now, Gamboa is ready to begin the season and has been working out in Arizona since December.
“The season ended late September and I came home right around then,” he said. “I came home for a couple of months. I got to see everyone. I decided I needed to come to work a little early. There’s stuff I need to do to get to where I want to be. I felt like if I stayed home too long, I would get into a little bit of trouble. I got away and went back to Arizona and have been training ever since.”
Gamboa is staying at a hotel with a couple of teammates and the Dodgers are paying for the room.
“We have a lot of Minor Leaguers here,” he said. “A lot of guys report dates were this week. I’ve been training at the facility. I train every day to get my work in and then come back to the hotel to do it all again the next day.”
Gamboa hopes his third year will be the year he is fully healthy. Last year was his first full year of baseball, so it was kind of new for him.
“Last year was a learning year for me, kind of on the fly,” he said. “I wanted to see how my body reacted to the first full season. I haven’t pitched as much as I did last year. Being able to figure out my body, I think I trained really well this offseason to expect that toll. My body is ready to go heading into the season.”
Gamboa missed some time in the middle of the season with a lower back injury.
“It’s getting a lot better. It started to flare up again this offseason,” he said. “I’ve been working with the strength coaches and trainers and it’s night-and-day better. It seems like it’s gone away, knock on wood.”
Gamboa played the entire season with the Dodgers’ High-A affiliate, the Great Lakes Loons. He was 4-5 with a 4.21 ERA. He started 11 games and appeared in 22. He struck out 71 batters in 77 innings. Gamboa was also named the MiLB.com’s Organizational All-Star for the Dodgers as a left-handed starting pitcher. “The 24-year-old posted a 4.21 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP overall, but his numbers when taking the mound at the start of a game were far more impressive” said the report. “Gamboa limited opponents to a .253 average and carried a 2.75 ERA across 39 1/3 innings in that role. Although his strikeout rate dipped compared to his time in the bullpen, he still ran a 33-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio.”
With a solid season behind him, Gamboa went to work early to get ready for the upcoming season.
“I wanted to work on being a better pitcher, mentally,” he said. “I kind of got caught up in trying to throw fastballs by everyone, even though my fastball wasn’t that fast. I wasn’t pitching. I wasn’t pitch sequencing as I should. Learning how these hitters, especially in High-A, go, no matter how hard you throw, if you are not pitch sequencing, they are going to get to you. Being able to set up hitters and get them off balance was something I was working on. Picking up a slider, that I had last season, it wasn’t too good, was another thing to work on. I think we’ve picked it up along the way.”
Gamboa said he hit 97 miles per hour on the radar gun early in the season, but averaged about 92-95 mph during the season.
“At Fresno City, I was at 88-91,” he said. “When I get here, the type of coaches they have in the organization have made me get to where I’m at now.”
Gamboa still isn’t sure where the Dodgers envision him, but right now, he’s going into the 2022 season as a starter.
“I hear things about where they want me to pitch,” he said. “I just have to do what I have to do to get better. What they say is what I’ll do. Right now, in my head, I’m a starter. But, I could walk into the facility tomorrow and tell me I’m a reliever. I’ll be a reliever then. Whatever they need me to do, I’ll do.”
Although the Major League Baseball players are currently in a lockout by the owners, that doesn’t preclude the minor leaguers from working out and playing.
“The lockout means nothing to me,” Gamboa said. “There’s no lockout for us. We’re able to use the facility and resources the Dodgers have for us. They are still able to pay for my living situation. We’re pretty much playing by ear, as well. We’re expecting to still play.”
Another item that was passed in the offseason was that Major League teams would have to foot the bill on players’ housing.
“That’s huge for us,” Gamboa said. “We’re not going to have to find housing on our own. They are going to pay for that and get that headache out of the way for us so we can focus on our craft. That’s huge they are going to pay for housing.”
Gamboa is hoping to hit the regular season healthy and ready to go. Last season, he experienced some bicep problems in spring training.
“I think that stemmed from not getting my arm properly conditioned,” he said. “Right now, I’m focusing on getting my arm to full strength when my season starts. I want to get through a whole season without any injuries. That’s kind of shooting for the stars. That’s my main goal. I want to start the season off in Double-A (Tulsa). I played a whole year in High-A and I think I did fairly well. If I have a good spring training, I’m hoping I could end up in Double-A and have a good season there.”
Gamboa isn’t looking too far ahead with the Dodgers. He is going to go out and do his job as best as possible.
“Right now, I’m just worrying about game-to-game,” he said. “They make the calls when they think the time is right for me. I’m going to keep pitching the way I’m pitching. Hopefully, that opportunity comes sooner than later. I’m just living the dream. I don’t care how long it takes, as long as it’s with this organization.”