Journey for M’s top pick started on a mound in his backyard

Logan Gilbert’s brother, Tyler, saw something special while catching for his little brother.

Seattle Mariners first-round draft pick Logan Gilbert is introduced at a news conference before the Mariners game against the Boston Red Sox on Saturday, June 16, 2018, in Seattle. (John Froschauer / Associated Press)

Seattle Mariners first-round draft pick Logan Gilbert is introduced at a news conference before the Mariners game against the Boston Red Sox on Saturday, June 16, 2018, in Seattle. (John Froschauer / Associated Press)

EVERETT — Logan Gilbert’s first act as an Everett AquaSox player came at home plate.

The 6-foot-6 right-handed power pitcher knelt last Sunday to catch the ceremonial first pitch prior to Everett’s game against the Hillsboro Hops. But Gilbert, the first-round draft pick of the Seattle Mariners, figures to spend far more time throwing pitches from the mound than catching them.

“I’m ready to get to work,” Gilbert said last week when he was introduced to the media and fans at Safeco Field. “I saw the (Mariners) game… and it made me want to get out there, so I’m excited to get to Everett. Hopefully I’ll get to throw a little bit and hopefully work my way up over the next few years.”

The mound at Everett Memorial Stadium will be a special place as Gilbert begins his journey toward the major leagues.

But it will always be secondary to the mound where his older brother, Tyler, recognized his talent and where he honed his craft as he went from an undrafted high-school position player to a first-round selection as a pitcher.

That mound is in his backyard at home in Apopka, Fla., where his father, Keith, helped jump-start his son’s development.

“(I was) always (into) the heart and hustle type things, not finesse and skills,” said Keith Gilbert, who played high school football and raced motorcycles. “(But) I built the mound. That was my job.”

Keith caught Logan in the backyard growing up until Tyler took over when Logan was in middle school.

Tyler was the first one to recognize Logan’s talent.

“I saw the spin on his ball,” said Tyler, who accompanied his brother and parents to Seattle for the press conference. “I played with a guy a who went to (the University of) Miami and he was the only other guy I’ve seen who throws like that and I could tell with the extension how quick it got on me. It was just different than anything I’ve seen.”

An elbow injury ended Tyler’s career after high school and prevented him from pitching in college. He went on to earn a degree in industrial engineering at Central Florida and is pursuing graduate school at Georgia Tech.

Logan played first base and pitched at Wekiva High School. He went undrafted out of high school and attended Stetson, a private school of 3,000 students that combines the intimacy of a small college with Division I athletics.

Stetson also has a recent track record of developing elite starting pitchers. Cleveland Indians ace and two-time American League Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber was named the Atlantic Sun Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2007, and New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom was converted from shortstop to pitcher during his time at Stetson.

“It’s incredible to see that they can start at Stetson and make it all the way,” said Gilbert, who was twice named the Atlantic Sun Pitcher of the Year, “and that kind of makes you think I can do the same hopefully.”

Dave Therneau took over as Stetson’s pitching coach during Gilbert’s freshman season in 2016 and his tutelage was a big reason Gilbert had the college success he did.

“(Therneau) taught him how to pitch,” Keith said. “Logan only had 55 innings when he got to Stetson. He wasn’t really a pitcher … They worked to develop him.”

Gilbert, who had a 4.0 grade-point average in high school, got the academic work ethic from his mother, Noel, who is an elementary school librarian. Both boys also inherited their father’s penchant for numbers, and Logan majored in business systems and analytics at Stetson. That could come in handy as he progresses in his professional career.

“I didn’t use (analytics) a ton in college (because) there wasn’t a ton of data really that we had to use,” Gilbert said. “But that’s who I am and that’s how my mind works. I’m an analytical type of person. So I look forward in the future to being able to utilize that in different ways. I think it will help my game just to have extra information, extra data to be able to use.”

When Gilbert makes his professional debut remains to be seen. He battled illness during Everett’s season-opening homestand and did not make the road trip to Vancouver. He also pitched more than 100 innings at Stetson this spring and is “nearly at his innings limit” according to Mariners director of amateur scouting Scott Hunter.

It could be tough for Gilbert to hold himself back and now it’s up to the Mariners to bring him along slowly.

“You’ve seen a lot (of work ethic), but I’ve lived with him,” Keith said. “I’ve seen him train in Florida hurricanes, I’ve seen him train on the top of cruise ships, I’ve seen him train in the … flowerbed because that’s the day he’s supposed to throw. That’s the work ethic. As far as getting to work, he can’t wait.”

For the latest AquaSox news follow Jesse Geleynse on Twitter.

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