Mature Gannon Rising to Challenge

Nolan Gannon has already begun to reap the benefits that the Rays organization has to offer, and is off to a good start in the GCL. Inside, the right-handed hurler discusses some of the things he's been working on, plus his experience so far as a pro. Also providing some insight is his former high school coach, Don Mitchell, who is familiar with what Gannon brings to the table.

It's just under a month into the season, but thus far Nolan Gannon is faring very well in his first year as a pro. The Rays 4th round pick this year, Gannon has seemingly made the transition with ease, having gone a scattered seven and two thirds without allowing an earned run.

One of the main reasons for Gannon's early success is a new routine designed to improve his flexibility among other things. In fact, he has already noticed improvement in his delivery because of it.

"So far," he said, "the Rays have had me doing a leg strengthening circuit a couple times a week. They have also had me doing exercises to increase flexibility in my hips. I've noticed more consistency in my delivery since I've been doing these programs."

Clearly, Gannon is already utilizing some of the resources that the Rays organization has to offer. However, it's not the bells and whistles that have him already feeling like a better player than he was in high school.

"The structure of conditioning and workouts in this organization has helped me the most in becoming a better player," he said. "Not necessarily the equipment that we use, but more of the instruction we receive from the knowledgeable staff that has helped me improve my game."

But before Gannon decided to pass on college and turn pro, there was another staff that helped shape him into the player he is today. Among the group is his former high school coach at Santa Fe Christian High School, Don Mitchell, who is more than familiar with Gannon's game and the path that the young righty took to reach pro ball at 18 years old.

"Nolan came to us four years ago as a very young man with raw baseball skills in pitching, fielding and hitting," said Mitchell, "and he knew what he wanted to accomplish. Then through his hard work and personal desire, and he attained it."

Whether it's his demeanor on the mound or his pitch command, Gannon has impressed Mitchell in many ways over the years.

"His ability to focus yet remain calm under pressure is well beyond his years," Mitchell said, "and provides a stability that a team will feed off of. He is very mature about the task ahead, and is a quiet leader with very strong morality. He can also throw his curveball for a strike as well as his fastball, and he is confident and willing to pound the strike zone."

Having continued success as a pro is no easy task, but Gannon has the right qualities in place to go far, at least according to Mitchell.

"Through the ups and downs that are inevitable for all professional baseball players working their way up through the minor leagues," said Mitchell, "if Nolan can keep his confidence, his tenacity on the mound and continue to strengthen his lower body, he will be successful in the game."

Despite the step up in competition, Gannon has risen to the challenge by improving the areas of his game that needed the most work. Pitch location has been a point of emphasis for the young righty since his high school days, and he wasted no time getting even better in that aspect.

"Locating my pitches is most important to me right now," he said. "Hitters at this level are able to hit a solid fastball better, so I have improved on locating my fastball."

Although he has done some new things to get better, Gannon hasn't made any drastic changes to his game. The work certainly appears to be paying off, but it's more of an attitude he brings to the mound that may very well be the key to his impressive start."The main reason for my early success," he said, "is feeling comfortable on the mound and having confidence in my stuff. When I do make a mistake, it is only another opportunity to learn and grow as a ball player."

The journey has just begun for Nolan Gannon, and he's already enjoying the ride. Like any dedicated athlete, Gannon relishes the opportunity to play the sport he loves for a living.

"I love the rookie ball experience," he said. "It's a great atmosphere to be a part of. Not everybody gets to wake up and play baseball every day, so I am thankful for that."



Brad Lymburner is the GCL Rays beat writer for Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @_BradL.

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