Mercyhurst pitchers Tyler Garbee and Matthew Minnick paced in the dugout during the Lakers’ game against UC San Diego. Not surprising considering this was the Division II World Series and the Lakers were facing elimination with a loss.
But their anxiety had as much to do with an anticipated phone call as the outcome of the game. Garbee, a Quaker Valley graduate, and Minnick were expected to be taken in the MLB Draft.
Garbee — encouraged by coach Joe Spano to keep his phone handy — got his call in the second inning. He was taken in the 19th round by the Cincinnati Reds.
Minnick was taken four rounds later by the New York Yankees.
And Mercyhurst won the game.
“(Getting drafted) was a little bit of happiness and a lot of relief,” Garbee (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) said from Arizona, where he was awaiting his assignment to one of the Reds’ minor league clubs, “The relief came from finally hearing (my) name. The happiness came from getting the opportunity to keep playing.”
Garbee’s ride to the pro ranks wasn’t a smooth one. After making 14 appearances (two starts) for Pitt as a freshman, Garbee made only two appearances as a sophomore, prompting him to transfer.
“I think I was more discouraged about the lack of success I was having,” he said. “It was nothing anyone at Pitt did. I blame myself as much as anything. In ACC baseball, you just have to perform.”
Spano agreed, saying in the ACC, there is very little margin for error. But he preaches a different philosophy to his players.
“The things we do in our program help the players become themselves,” said Spano, who has had 12 players — most of them pitchers — drafted in his 21 seasons at Mercyhurst. “We just try to let them cut loose. Sometimes that goes a long way, being able to have some freedom.”
Garbee said he also received a boost during his two seasons in the Coastal Plains League, a wooden-bat league for college players based in North Carolina. There, his pitching coach preached the importance of confidence.
But perhaps the biggest difference-maker for Garbee was the development of a changeup. He relied heavily on his fastball and curve, but the changeup made his fastball more effective. He went from 73 strikeouts in 711⁄3 innings as a junior to 110 strikeouts in 741⁄3 innings this season.
He also added velocity to his fastball, which, Spano said, rests between 92 and 95 mph but has gone as high as 97.
“By the end of my junior year, I had all the confidence in (my changeup),” Garbee said. “It’s a big difference when you have three pitches.”
Added Spano: “At his age, the velocity is continuing to uptick, and scouts are interested to see how far that can go. I think he could have a chance to be a starter, but his real strength might be coming out of the pen.”
That journey begins now for Garbee. He got a taste of what life in the pros will be like while in Arizona, and he believes he can fit right in.
“I think confidence is a huge thing and believe you’re as good as the players here,” he said. “I was in the training room, and Hunter Greene, the No. 2 overall pick from (2017) was standing there doing rehab. I threw a bullpen today, and (Reds Hall of Fame shortstop) Barry Larkin was there.
“I was like, ‘I’m one of these guys now.’ ”