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Flying Squirrels' Evan Gates running with opportunity Giants gave him

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Flying Squirrels relief pitcher Evan Gates loved football in high school before coaches convinced him to commit to baseball.

As the MLB draft approached last summer, Evan Gates was anticipating that some type of opportunity would materialize for him.

What exactly that opportunity would look like was in question, but the right-hander out of North Carolina A&T received word that suggested he would be picked at some point. He heard that some teams had him pegged as a selection within the top 10 rounds. And he learned that other teams had him as an 11th- to 15th-round pick.

But on the third and final day of the draft, which featured rounds 11 through 20, Gates’ phone was silent — no calls.

Gates, though, had an area scout, Paul Faulk, who went to bat for him. And the Giants took Faulk’s word, signing Gates as an undrafted free agent.

“They gave me the chance that I was looking for,” Gates said.

And Gates has turned it into a sound investment for the Giants.

The 6-foot, 210-pound reliever from Roseville, Mich., has put together a sharp season in what is his first full year of pro ball. And he has, in turn, shot through the Giants system this year, from the Low-A San Jose Giants to the High-A Eugene Emeralds and now Double-A.

“He just comes in and challenges hitters,” Flying Squirrels pitching coach Paul Oseguera said of Gates. “He has a really nice breaking ball that’s sharp, and has some late action just below the zone. He can throw it for a strike, and get that swing and miss.”

When Gates was growing up, playing sports at Roseville High in his hometown, football was his focus early. A quarterback for the Panthers, Gates had a desire to play football in college.

Meanwhile, Gates also began pitching for Roseville’s varsity baseball team as a sophomore. His best friend at the time told his summer baseball coach about Gates, and that he should give Gates a chance — which he did, despite Gates’ initial reluctance.

“I remember telling him, ‘No, I don’t want to play for you, because I want to work on football, and football is my love,’” Gates said.

As it turned out, the collegiate opportunities that appealed more to Gates came in baseball and not football. So Gates chose baseball, at Mott Community College, about an hour from Roseville, in Flint, Mich.

At Mott, with more time to devote to baseball solely, Gates took on a more stringent throwing program, and saw himself take steps forward. He lowered his ERA from 4.93 in 42 innings as a freshman to 2.66 in 44 innings as a sophomore. As he eyed a Division I program to jump to, he found that North Carolina A&T checked every box. He blossomed into a second-team all-MEAC pick by his third season, in 2021, serving in mostly a relief role.

Gates’ 79 strikeouts in 47ß innings ranked second in the MEAC.

“I feel like I’m always the type of guy, and my coach said this at A&T, that, ‘Put you wherever you want, you’re going to play up to your competition,” Gates said.

Faulk had a belief in him as well, which put Gates on the Giants’ radar.

After he signed last summer he, as he termed it, got roughed up a bit in the rookie-level Arizona Complex League last year — he allowed five earned runs in 10 innings. That lit a fire under him over the offseason. Still, Gates thought there was no chance he would put himself in position to reach Double-A this year. But he ran into an instance of symbolic foreshadowing, at a church service months ago.

A woman in front of him at that service introduced herself, and her name was Virginia.

“She told me towards the end of the service she’s like, ‘I just got a feeling you’re going to make your way out to Virginia, by the end of the season,’” Gates said. “And I was like, ‘There ain’t no shot.’ … I would have to do a lot to even get that chance.”

Gates, though, has surpassed what he thought was possible, posting a 1.66 ERA in 54ß innings, with 69 strikeouts. His promotion to Richmond came on Aug. 30, and he’s allowed just one earned run in eight innings since.

Friday’s game

Flying Squirrels 10, Erie 3: Ricardo Genoves homered twice and drove in four runs as part of a five-home run barrage as Richmond routed Erie at The Diamond.

Brett Auerbach, Riley Mahan and Carter Aldrete also went deep for Richmond (25-41). Aldrete also doubled twice and drove in three runs.

Squirrels starter Kai-Wei Teng (6-12) allowed two runs and struck out nine in seven innings.

In Thursday’s late game, Jacob Heyward’s RBI single scored Will Wilson in the bottom of the 12th inning to give Richmond an 8-7 win over Erie.

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Twitter: @wayneeppsjr


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