Playing professional baseball was the last thing Isaac Gil thought he would be doing after high school.
That was until the Bronx native, who never played organized baseball before college, was discovered by ASA baseball coach Francisco Perez and eventually drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 31st round of the 2011 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. He hasn’t looked back since.
This year with the Hudson Valley Renegades, the Rays short season Class A affiliate, the right-handed Gil went 5-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 18.2 innings pitched. He struck out 23 batters and walked just seven. Hudson Valley pitching coach Jorge Moncada sees a lot of potential in Gil, who was promoted to the Low-A Bowling Green Hot Rods on July 16 and used as a reliever.
“He’s been throwing outstanding for us,” he said. “He’s just making adjustments quick, when he gets deep in the counts. His fastball is explosive. He’s developed off-speed pitches. He can be a good guy.”
It’s exactly what Perez felt when he discovered the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Gil while watching him have a catch with a friend in the Dominican Republic. He saw potential and offered Gil a scholarship to attend ASA, a junior college with campuses in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Gil had originally planned on joining the Army.
Despite his good fortune, the 23-year-old Gil thought his baseball journey was going to end before it started. In his first bullpen session with Perez he said he threw approximately 20 pitches, two of which were for strikes. The coach didn’t give up on him.
“I thought he wasn’t going to give me the scholarship, but he decided to stick with me and keep working,” Gil said.
His work ethic led to quick improvement. Gil didn’t question Perez, but instead soaked in everything he said. The coached challenged him to not let his natural talent go to waste.
“I told him was you could either be the same guy with a good future, but not throw any strikes or you can adjust and listen to what I tell you,” Perez said.
Gil didn’t let him down. In his two years at ASA, Gil won two championships and pitched the clincher his sophomore year when he went nine innings, struck out 12, and gave up no runs in the team’s victory over Monroe College.
His success with ASA led him to getting drafted, but wildness again hindered Gil in his first season with the Gulf Coast Rays in 2011. He walked 15 batters and had a 5.14 ERA in 14 innings. Some time down in the Dominican Republic working with former Ray pitcher Joel Peralta helped straightened him out along with guidance from his Renegades coaches.
“He taught me tips on how to throw strikes,” Gil said of Peralta.
Gil now does the regularly as he tries to work his way up through the Rays system, with the hope of one day pitching in Tampa Bay with the big club.
“My ultimate goal is to get to the big league,” Gil said. “Stay in the big leagues, and get better every day.”
He’s gotten this far by doing just that.