Feb. 13, 2004
Hometown: Huntington Beach, CA
High School: Edison HS
When Jeff Gilmore
throws his first pitch this Saturday versus Kansas, he will already have made more appearances on the mound than he did all of last season. After pitching just 2.1 innings and appearing in three games in 2003, Gilmore has made a terrific transformation in the early stages of this season by moving into the club's starting rotation.
He's been successful as well, earning his first collegiate win in his first start at Fresno State last Saturday, setting new career-highs for both strikeouts (8) and innings pitched (6.0). Gilmore also earned his first save with 4.0 scoreless one-hit frames to close out Stanford's sweep of Cal State Fullerton six days earlier. Gilmore has been on the mound more often than any other Stanford pitcher this season, leading the club with three appearances and 11.0 innings. Last year, no pitcher saw as little action as Gilmore.
The transformation actually began to take place in the latter stages of last season. In May, Gilmore met former Cardinal pitcher and current New York Yankees standout Mike Mussina before a Stanford-California game in Berkeley. The two talked about pitching and Mussina offered a few tips, including some advice on the spike curve ball that Mussina uses so effectively to get Major League Baseball hitters out.
"Meeting Mike Mussina was a profound experience in my life," says Gilmore. "I admire him. He's so smart and humble, and took a little bit of his time to help me out. That was amazing."
Shortly after meeting with Mussina, Gilmore also sat down with Stanford head coach Mark Marquess.
"I just asked him very frankly if he thought I had what it took to pitch at Stanford," recalled Gilmore. "He was very honest and told me where he thought I was doing well, and where I was coming up short. But, he told me that he did think I could pitch here."
Marquess emphasized to Gilmore the importance of summer baseball and Stanford's workouts in the fall of 2003. Gilmore took the advice of both Mussina and Marquess very seriously and emerged from those encounters even more motivated.
"It's easy to say you're motivated, and I thought I was the summer before my freshman year," said Gilmore. "But, I was markedly more motivated this past summer."
In this year's media guide, Gilmore changed the advice he would give to youngsters to "do today what others don't so that tomorrow you can do what others can't."
Gilmore took his own advice to heart and went to work, first in Alaska where he had a terrific season with the Mat-Su Miners of the Alaska Baseball League, posting a 1.41 ERA in 32.0 innings of work.
"I treated every one of those games in Alaska like it was Omaha," said Gilmore, who took the mound 25 times for the Miners in a variety of roles, including two starts. "I knew that it was the first step to pitching this year at Stanford."
Gilmore took his next step when he returned home to Huntington Beach following the summer season. He got up nearly every morning at 7 am and ran at nearby Huntington State Beach. Later in the day, he would lift weights with a high school baseball teammate and throw at a local park with his father Rick, a catcher at Long Beach State from 1974-75.
He and his father also planned what Jeff could do to get better.
"I had to switch gears," said Gilmore. "I was focused on the wrong thing last year. I was focused on throwing the ball harder and was criticizing myself on velocity and location in the zone. It took me a lot of time to realize that I needed to do something different because keeping the ball down with the fastball I had last year was not going to get the job done."
"I thought I could get away with two pitches and throw the ball by hitters," continued Gilmore. "Looking back now, that's one of the most foolish things I could have thought. It's not easy to admit that you don't have the velocity to throw the ball by hitters consistently, but when you realize you need to change your game plan that's when you can start to be effective."
Gilmore started working on making his fastball move, realizing that this would be a more attainable goal than adding significant velocity.
Gilmore's strategy worked last fall, when he was arguably the team's best pitcher, and has continued to manifest early this season.
"It was a great feeling," said Gilmore when his transformation resulted in his first collegiate start at Fresno State last Saturday. "The players on our team are so selfless that when they see a guy get chance who really hasn't had much of one yet, they're always very happy. That's a sign of awesome teammates."
The other guy who was very happy on Saturday was his father, who was on hand to witness his son's first collegiate start.
"He was very proud afterwards," said Gilmore, who admitted that his dad told him he didn't know if he would ever see his son start a collegiate game. "It was awesome."
After finally tasting a bit of success at the collegiate level, Gilmore wants more.
The easy thing to do right now is get complacent," admitted Gilmore. "But, you just can't do that, and I'm not."
by Kyle McRae