Pitcher - Chicago Cubs
For the average major league baseball team, drafting a highly successful pitcher in the 12th Round of the June draft is a rare occurrence. In fact only 23 pitchers drafted in the 12th round since 1990 have gone on to appear in a big league game. Of those, Seattle's Joel Pineiro, is the only player to establish himself as front of the rotation pitcher at the major league level.
In the 12th round of the 2004 draft, the Chicago Cubs may have found their Joel Pineiro in the form of 19 year old righthander Sean Gallagher.
The Florida native has dominated the Midwest League as a member of the Peoria Chiefs through his first five starts of the 2005 season. Gallagher has not allowed an earned run in 29 innings to open this season while allowing just 10 hits, striking out a Midwest League leading 37 batters while allowing just six walks. Opponents are batting a microscopic .092 against Gallagher, and he has left the game with a No-Hitter in two of his last three starts. Not bad for a kid who had 365 players selected ahead of him in the 2004 draft.
"It's going to be harder than this, I know it is, but I'm just getting lucky and catching breaks here and there," said Gallagher. "I just go out there every game pretty much prepared. I just try to hit my spots, locate my pitches really well, and mix them in there. It's worked out really well for me so far. It doesn't hit me till after I come out of the game as to how well I really did."
Despite his 0.00 E.R.A., Gallagher is only 2-1 so far on the year. The loss came in his second start of the season against Clinton, a game in which the Chiefs defense imploded for four errors resulting in three unearned runs and a losing decision for Gallagher in Peoria's 6-5 loss to the Lumberkings. The Chiefs defense also cost Gallagher a decision in the Peoria staff's 10 inning, combined no hitter against Cedar Rapids on April 20th. Gallagher gave up two unearned runs on no hits in that ball game and the Chiefs rallied in the 10th to pull out the 3-2 win. In his last start on April 30th, Gallagher once again picked up a no-decision after leaving the game following six no-hit innings against Kane County in which he struck out a career high 10 batters.
"Everyone up here (in the Midwest League) can swing the bat and that's definitely something to adjust to. My teammates have an idea that I'm going to keep it close. There have been a few games where we might be down from a couple of unearned runs, but I was able to keep it close and give us a chance to win the game."
Gallagher is no stranger to tough competition. As a native of Fort Lauderdale and a graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas High School, he played with and against some of the best prep players in the country. Among the many current minor leaguers from the Broward County area are Twins prospect Anthony Swarzak, and Pirates prospect Eric Ridener.
"I played in a very good area of Florida for baseball. Every program down there had two or three kids that could definitely compete. When we see each other we do talk. There are a few players out here in the Midwest League that I played with or went to school with. We all do keep in touch, we're all from the same area, and we have a bit of a connection between us that other players don't. We've played against each other before, and we know each other better than most players."
While he has had no trouble dealing with Midwest League hitters this season, Gallagher has run into a bit of trouble dealing with the Midwest League weather.
"I'm definitely learning how to adjust to cold. We have to deal with that here. We were up in Grand Rapids playing West Michigan last week and actually got snowed out of our first two games up there. That was something that has never happened to me before in my life."
If Gallagher is able to continue to put up the numbers he has thus far, it is likely that he will pitch his way out of the cold weather of Illinois, and back into the comfortable climate of home, as he would earn a call-up to the Cubs' Florida State League team in Daytona.
"That would be amazing. I love Florida. I miss it. Being in Daytona would mean that my home in Fort Lauderdale wouldn't be that far away. I could have family and friends come up and watch me play. The weather down there is beautiful. It's just amazing. Nothing gets better than the Florida State League is what I've heard so far."
One of the more interesting stories Gallagher has to tell is that of his draft day experience. Rather than sitting in front of his computer watching the live draft on MLB.com and waiting for his name to appear, Gallagher did not actually find out he had been drafted until the first day of the draft was over.
"I went to Boston to visit my father the weekend before the draft. My flight home was during the day of the draft, so I had no idea I was selected until after the draft had already finished. When I landed I turned on my phone and got all my voice mails and finally figured out what had happened. There were phone calls before the Cubs area scout Rolando Pino called and said they had selected me. I probably could have gone to another team had my phone been on, but I am more than with the way things turned out. I'm more than happy to be a Cub. This is one of the best organizations to move up in and I'm more than happy to be here."
While many players his age struggle with decision of whether or not to turn pro, Gallagher said his decision to pass up a scholarship at Florida International University to sign with the Cubs was a pretty easy one.
"My decision was pretty much made up even before the draft. My dream was to play pro ball. The money was right, and it's a great organization, so I figured, hey it is my dream, this is what I want to do. I figured I might as well do it now and get a head start on some of the other the other kids that come in from college. My mom definitely was the one leaning towards me going to school more, but my dad understood that this is my dream and that I wanted to do it, and she understood too. They pretty much let me make my decision on my own. (Being a pro) has been everything I thought it would be and more. It's unbelievable. It's an experience I wouldn't give up and would never look back on. If I had to do it all again I would. "
One of the added perks of being a baseball player is having a baseball card, and seeing himself on one for the first time was a great memory for Gallagher.
"That was pretty crazy. I definitely did not expect that. I signed with my agent, and he called me back the next day and told me they had a baseball card deal for me. I couldn't believe it. When it came out about six or seven months later, I couldn't believe it was me on the card. I'm 18 years old and on a baseball card, and people are going to go out and try to buy it. It's just an unreal feeling to have."