For Mike Gibbons ‘15, spring means baseball. But this year is different, in a major way.
The righthanded pitcher is practicing at Port St. Lucie, Florida, as a new member of the New York Mets organization.
The Mets took the unusual step of signing Gibbons in August, following his promising junior season with the Lyons and a stellar summer with the Torrington Titans of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL). Typically, college juniors from Division III institutions do not receive offers after the draft.
“Once I started talking to the Mets and I got the offer, I really couldn’t pass it up,” said Gibbons, who plans to return to Wheaton in the fall to complete his degree in economics. “The fact that they wanted me enough to make an offer before the draft and didn’t want anyone else to get me, was a sign that it was a right fit for me.
“Currently on my contract, I am listed as a right-handed starter but I am not sure if they do that for every pitcher,” said Gibbons. “I am not really sure how they will see me fit in but I am ready to go where they [the Mets] tell me.”
Last summer, Gibbons shined for the Torrington Titans going 4-2 overall with 59 strikeouts – ranked third best in the league – in 50 2/3 innings pitched. Gibbons also held opponents to a .240 batting average, posted a 1.26 WHIP, a 10.48 strikeout per nine innings ratio and fanned a season-high 11 batters in two different games.
“It was a great blessing to go to Wheaton. Every baseball player, when they’re coming out of high school, has aspirations to play Division I baseball at a big school where baseball is a top priority,” Gibbons said. “Once I got established at Wheaton, I realized quickly that Coach Podbelski runs his program just like a Division I program, if not better.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better situation. I was put in a position to succeed from day one and I owe a lot of that to my experiences within the program,” he said.
In only its 19th season as a program (one year junior varsity), the Wheaton College baseball program has amassed over 500 wins, captured 15 New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) regular season titles, 13 conference championships and also made 12 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, including two trips to the NCAA Division III championship game.
In addition to Gibbons, the Lyons have had two other student-athletes sign with an MLB franchise – current Chicago Cub Chris Denorfia ’02 was drafted in the 19th round of the MLB amateur draft by the Cincinnati Reds, and Jamie Baker ’06, who signed as a free agent with the San Diego Padres in 2006 – while eight student-athletes in total have signed a contract to play professional baseball (Baker, Denorfia, Gibbons, Mark Brown ’06, Chris Martin ’06, Adam Laplante ’07, Chris McDonough ’08 and Jon Shepard ’10).
Gibbons also expresses appreciation for what he learned in Wheaton’s classrooms. “You go to Wheaton expecting to receive a well-rounded education and I received just that,” said Gibbons, who noted that his economics studies gave him special appreciation for the process of reaching an agreement with the Mets.
“The whole process of being signed was eye-opening as far as how much of a business professional baseball is,” he said. “It was really interesting and working in a front office or a job similar to that in baseball is something that I will really look into doing.”