For most people it would be only a dream to pitch in the home run derby at the Major League Baseball All-Star game. But for one former Tabor Bluejay baseball player, that dream was a reality this year in Washington, D.C.
Gadiel Baez, former Tabor College standout middle infielder, had that opportunity when he pitched to his brother, Javier, who plays second base for the Chicago Cubs.
“Pitching to my brother in the Home Run Derby was something that I still can’t explain,” Gadiel said. “I do believe it—I just can’t explain how great, exciting and crazy that moment was. Something that we have been talking about for our entire life. It really was a dream made reality.”
Although Javier didn’t win the derby, Gadiel didn’t mind giving up the longest home run of the derby to his brother.
“The ball didn’t carry to left field as much as it did to right field and that was a big disadvantage, but even though, he hit it against the wind for the longest one (479 ft),” Gadiel said. “You have to have some power to do that.”
Gadiel himself is no stranger to success when it comes to baseball. At Tabor, he was the leader of the first World Series team the Bluejays had. Playing middle infield for the Bluejays gave him the opportunity to lead by example.
“He was one of our breakthrough guys,” said Tabor Head Coach Mark Standiford about Baez. “We went to the World Series both years he was here and that says something about him. He was no doubt the leader of our team. We had some good pitchers to go with him but with that said, he was very competitive.”
Pitching in the derby wasn’t the first time the baseball world noticed Gadiel.
On May 25, 2015, he made an outstanding play from second base in the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, earning him the No. 1 play on ESPN’s World Series Top 10 list.
Gadiel was playing second base for the Bluejays and with a runner on third, Baez was playing in on the infield grass when a flare was hit to right field. He immediately started tracking the ball, left his feet at the edge of the dirt and made an extremely difficult over the shoulder diving catch in shallow right field. After making the catch, he quickly got to his feet to check the runner, holding him at third and saving a run.
Handling pressure in big moments defines who Baez is as a player.
“He had two or three walk-off hits,” said Andy Davis, Tabor assistant baseball coach. “He always got the clutch hit. He wanted the pressure, he was like his brother; he embraced the pressure in big situations.”
After leaving Tabor College, Gadiel played for the Vallejo Admirals in the Pacific League in California. He has many fond memories of his playing days at Tabor.
“Going to the NAIA World Series back to back in 2014 and 2015 with the Tabor Bluejays is still at the top of my baseball experiences,” Gadiel said. “It was really great to have that opportunity. Not everyone has that opportunity to play a World Series game and I did it for two straight years. My best memory of college was when I made the No. 1 top 10 plays in the World Series of 2015. I wish I could go back to college.”
Gadiel is still playing baseball in Puerto Rico for the Los Patrulleros de San Sebastian. His season just wrapped up a week ago, but he isn’t slowing down.
He is the proud father of a 6-month-old baby boy, Gadiel Andres, and is expecting another child soon.
Maybe someday we will see him pitching again at the MLB Home Run Derby, this time to his son, Gadiel Andres.
“My plans for right now is to enjoy this new journey as a father and when the time comes I want to show and teach my kids everything I did growing up,” he said. “Obviously, one of the things I’m going to teach Gadiel Andres will be how to be a beast in baseball, even though that comes in the blood.”