Gallagher Didn't Start In A League Too Far

When the Dodgers made the decision to assign newly-signed third-round draft choice Austin Gallagher to Ogden it was not without considerable misgivings. They had learned that no matter how prized the prospect fresh from the high school ranks- as Gallagher was- they almost never fare well as beginners in the Pioneer League, laced with players who have professional and college experience.

Nonetheless the decision was made because they already had another prized 18-year-old third baseman, Pedro Baez, set for the Gulf Coast League and they wanted both of them in the lineups on a regular basis. So, as Tim Hallgren, the director of amateur scouting put it, "We sent Gallagher to Ogden hoping he could hit a couple out".

When he got there Austin found himself the only recent high school grad on the team. "I felt like a freshman among seniors," he recalls. And when he got off to a stumbling start, the "I told you so's" nodded their heads and soon were joined as doubters by Austin himself.

"The pressure was on," he says now. "Whenever I'd do something wrong, I started panicking. I thought 'What do I do.?'. You have to work hard and take it to the next level. Up there you're not going to hit. 500."

He had in high school back in Mannheim Township, Pa., which is located in the southeastern part of the state- rolling hill country where you're just as likely to see an Amish buggy on the roadway as a Toyota. There he hit .587 and was considered the greatest player in his school's history.

But the competition wasn't all that much and even though he had impressive credentials, scout Clair Rierson worried some. "You know, I don't hear much talk about him among the other scouts," he confided in John Barr, the director of Eastern scouting for the Dodgers, who had joined him in looking at Gallagher. "Great," answered Barr. "That means we may have a chance to get him. Let's keep it that way."

Gallagher had another advantage along with his athletic ability. His dad Glenn was a third-round pick in his day as well after starring at Clemson in football and baseball. In fact, Austin's first name is also Glenn leading to some confusion when he was picked but he's always gone by his middle name.

Glenn made it to AA in the Toronto system, then ultimately turned to college coaching. So, Austin had been around the college practices as he learned the game and knew a great deal about the work ethic needed to succeed.

He applied it and soon the hits began falling in. A couple even went out. Pitchers began adjusting, too, so he wound up with a very respectable .284 average with four home runs. He definitely proved be belonged.

The Dodgers feel the good things have just begun. He has the body at 6-4, 217, for power and the left-handed stroke with lift to deliver. They think he'll be a hitter of note as he moves upward.

The notion is he won't make it as a third baseman, though. He has good hands and his arm is okay but his range is suspect. He might well go to first or possibly to left eventually.

Although he's most comfortable where he's stationed, he's not the type to complain if they decide to move him. "All I've ever wanted is to play big league baseball and I'll do what it takes to get there."

Maybe some day in Los Angeles both he and Baez will be in the same lineup. Then it will be the Dodgers' turn to say, "I told you so.