West Virginia's Past Intersects With Its Present As Baseball Team Readies For 2017 Opener

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Randy Mazey isn't afraid to offer the similarities, albeit with a caveat.

West Virginia's head baseball coach has seen the similarities between current Mountaineer shortstop Jimmy Galusky and St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Jedd Gyorko. Both local kids, Galusky a graduate of Preston High and Gyorko coming out of University, Galusky and Gyorko approach the game with the same attention to detail, focus on the fundamentals and attitude of a team-first approach while striving to better their individual game.

Both were stars at the prep level, being named first team all-state selections in Class AAA before accepting scholarship offers to play at West Virginia. Gyorko went on to arguably the greatest collegiate career in school history, leaving after three years as the career leader in batting average (.404), doubles (73), extra-base hits (113) and the single-season leader in walks (43), doubles (28), extra-base hits (48), and total bases (192). He also tied the WVU records for career home runs (35) and single-season home runs (19) and won the 2010 Brooks Wallace Award as the best shortstop in college baseball as a junior. Gyorko was selected in the second round of the 2010 draft by San Diego, taking him 59th overall. Three seasons later, he was in the Majors, making the Padres' Opening Day roster in 2013.

"Since Jedd left here there hasn't been another player of that caliber until Jimmy came along," Mazey said. "I don't want to compare Jimmy to Jedd. Those are a little too big of shoes to put on him at this point right now. But that's why we love Jimmy and the fans love Jimmy. He is a local product and it has been awhile since we have had one. So Jimmy is one of my favorites, and he always will be and he's one of the fan favorites, the guy on the team you root for to have success so much because he deserves it."

A set of middle infielders, their games have often grown alongside one other as Gyorko advanced through the prep and American Legion levels while Galusky toiled in Little League and as a bat boy for the Mountaineers during Gyorko's WVU playing days from 2008-2010.

"I work out with him a lot over the offseason," said Gyorko, who returns to Morgantown for portions of the winter months. "He is a local guy who was always around it. I have known him since he was just a little kid, even out at Hawley Field when he was running around as a bat boy. So he's a kid that I have known a lot an I work a lot with him and hopefully I think he is going to have a big year." 

Now, Galusky enters his second season as West Virginia's starting shortstop, while Gyorko begins to settle in in St. Louis, where he hit a career-high 30 home runs last season in securing the second base spot after being traded. Galusky hit .282 last year, a solid number for a player still physically developing and gaining strength. He also became one of the most reliable defensive shortstops in the Big 12, as he made the fewest errors at the position of any league player.

"Jedd is not about the flash and the glamour. He's just about being a great baseball player and getting his work in and doesn't care to have a lot of notoriety," said Mazey, who could have easily been speaking of Galusky as well. "These days, with YouTube and internet stuff, kids love hype. Jedd's not that guy. He doesn't like hype. But at the same time, he had one of the best second halves in all of Major League Baseball last year. He is who he is, a quiet kid who goes about his business and he works really hard. He has to be one of the best baseball players ever to wear the Mountaineer uniform. And he's done it quietly. 

"He's been a great Mountaineer. It's been a great story to have a local kid who played youth baseball in town and legion baseball in town and college baseball in town to end up being where he is at. I'm really, really proud of what he had done and accomplished."

Now, it's up to West Virginia's baseball team to match that success. The Mountaineers went 36-22 last season and came within three outs of securing their first NCAA Tournament bid in 20 years before losing a ninth-inning lead, and eventually the Big 12 Tournament championship game in extra innings to TCU. That left them as among the first teams out, as a midseason slump offset the 17-4 finish down the stretch. There is only one next step for the program when it opens the regular season on Feb. 17, as Gyorko acknowledged.

"Start moving up the chain and the list of being a big time program," Gyorko said when asked about the goals for this season's WVU team after serving as honorary guest at the team's Lead-Off Dinner. "I think the expectation is high. I know they have a lot of returning guys and I know they were young last year. They're still really young even this year. But they have guys that have experience. I think they have to get to a regional, get into the tournament and anything can happen. 

"It's something I definitely follow and it's something that's a big part of my life and something that was always important to me," he added. "You like to check on the guys and see how they are doing. Win-loss is what it comes down to. It doesn't matter if I hit 30 home runs or one home run. If you don't get into the playoffs, it's a failure as a season. That's kinda what it is."


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