Boston High School: Eric Cressey

Pitcher's Perspective: Wilmington's Jackson Gillis

May, 20, 2014
WILMINGTON, Mass. -– When Wilmington lefthander Jackson Gillis racked up 15 strikeouts in his first varsity start last year as a freshman, Wildcats’ coach Aldo Caira knew he had something special on his hands.

Since then, the 6-foot-3 sophomore has taken MIAA baseball by storm and is quickly evolving into one of New England’s most prized pitching prospects. A laundry list of major Division 1 programs including LSU, North Carolina, Duke, Vanderbilt, Boston College, Wake Forest and Pitt are all taking an early interest in the strong southpaw.

Caira said that many of the college scouts he heard from this past winter watched Gillis throw in his very first start of the year this year, a no-hitter against Woburn where he recorded 14 K’s.

“He was our No. 3 pitcher last year and won three games for us. He didn’t throw the ball as hard as he’s throwing this year, but he really had that mound presence,” Caira said of Gillis, “He pitches higher than his age, and you could tell right away he had it.”

With a fastball that ranges anywhere from 86-90 MPH to go along with a heavy, sweeping curve ball to keep batters off-balanced, Gillis’ strong arm and cool mound demeanor have immediately separated himself as one of the most dominant pitchers in the state – even as a sophomore.

In six starts this year for Wilmington, Gillis holds a 5-2 record and has already added up 86 strikeouts in 43.1 innings pitched. His 1.16 earned run average is one of the state’s most miniscule.

For all his natural talent though, some of Gillis’ success this season has come as a result of his off-season regimen. This past winter, Gillis began working with pitching coach Matt Blake, owner of Elite Pitching Development and pitching coordinator at Cressey Performance in Hudson, Mass.

Immediately, Blake saw Gillis’ obvious talent, but one mechanical flaw stood out to him after watching Gillis throw on film.

“When he first came in I heard good things about him," Blake said. "He has nice arm action, he’s always kind of had it -- that’s a natural piece that makes him really special. He didn’t have the footwork though, that’s where his inconsistencies would show."

Jackson’s lack of balance and direction with his stride, though quickly identifiable on film for Blake, is one that takes countless amounts of repetition and film work for a pitcher to fix. Blake explained that because Gillis showed a tendency to overstride in his pitching motion, a lot of his pitches would miss high and out of the strike zone.

“With Jackson, the first time we got him off the mound we filmed him about every other bullpen. I don’t usually [film] that often, but for him I felt like it was more important. He learned to reign that stride in just a hair,” Blake said, “We just tried to re-emphasize to be a good athlete, pitch with a good tempo, and understanding that direction to the target is really important. It took him a little while to learn, harness, and repeat those concepts.”

“I had my own program that I followed from day to day –- I just felt myself getting stronger as the off-season went on,” Gillis said of his winter routine with Blake, “It really got me ready for the start of this season, it was my first year working with Matt but I really liked it. I’d say it has probably added an easy four or five miles an hour.”

Though he has experienced a few slight bumps in the road along the way, Gillis showed just how far he has come in his start last week against Middlesex League foe Wakefield. He struggled with his command in his previous start, but Gillis came back strong to shut down Wakefield, giving up just one earned run and striking out 14 Warrior batters in the process.

Caira’s favorite part though? Only one walk was surrendered.

“He was real dominant early on, this was the start we wanted him to get back to that,” Caira said, “His last outing was a little bit shaky. Throwing the first pitch for a strike like that is really what we were focusing on. With a kid like Jackson, when you get that first pitch strike it really puts the batter in a hole.”

Gillis’ control was pinpoint against Wakefield, particularly early in counts where he converted a first-pitch strike to 18 of the 28 batters he faced. Once again, his control was in rare form in his most recent start against Stoneham on Monday.

The sophomore played hero once again for the Wildcats, striking out 16 batters in a 10-2 victory for Wilmington. A bunt single broke up his no-hit bid in the sixth inning. In addition to Gillis going 3-for-4 with a home run, the win gave the Wildcats the Middlesex League's Freedom division title in their biggest game of the regular season.

“Now that he’s doing what he’s doing, he’s maturing, and hopefully that’s what he’ll do next year and the year after,” Caira said. “So that by the time he’s a senior he’ll be a monster out there.”

Draft night dreams come true for Tyler Beede

June, 7, 2011

HUDSON, Mass. -- One hundred and twenty some-odd faces, old and young, huddled around the 50-inch flatscreen television in the living room of Eric Cressey's house, as his most sought-after high school client sat patiently waiting for his name to be called on the MLB Network's live first round draft telecast.

For years, Tyler Beede honed his craft just a stone's throw from this house in the woody east side of Hudson, at Cressey's renowned training facility, a spacious warehouse-like setting known for developing dozens of minor leaguers and top high school prospects. And now, the Lawrence Academy righthander and Auburn native was seeing the fruits of those vicious training sessions in high-def.

The house went pin-drop silent as the Red Sox announced their selection at No. 19, Matt Barnes from Bethel, Conn. And there was a split-second build-up followed by a chorus of loud sighs as MLB Commissioner Bud Selig went to the podium to announce the Rockies' selection at No. 20: "Tyler...Anderson".

As they waited for the next pick, the show's hosts began talking about this first round as the "year of the pitcher", and Beede's father, Walter, couldn't help but shout his approval from across the room.

"That's right, year of the pitcher, run 'em off the board, baby!" he yelled.

Seconds later, his wishes were granted. The Toronto Blue Jays took young Tyler at No. 21, the crowd broke into euphoria, and father and son embraced in a bear hug as Tyler Beede became the first Massachusetts high schooler since 2003 to get selected in the first round.

Tyler BeedeBrendan Hall for ESPN.comLawrence Academy's Tyler Beede was overjoyed to go to the Blue Jays at No. 21 in in the MLB draft.
Mock drafts by various analysts and scouting services had Beede going anywhere from as high as No. 24 overall to the sandwich round in tonight's action, but this pick wasn't a total shock. The Blue Jays and the Rangers had been the two most proactive teams in terms of depth when scouting Beede, while the Red Sox -- who had been to every one of the local boy's games this spring -- were considered to be interested in taking him with their pick at No. 26.

"We knew the Blue Jays were a big possibility drafting us," Beede said. "We knew the odds were higher than most of the other teams before that. There was a lot of communication over the spring, leading up to the draft, so we were holding our breaths as they came to the podium to call my name."

Walter, however, described his emotions hearing his son's name called as "utter shock". In his eyes, Toronto did its due diligence very much so, but not with an indication of where they regarded his son on the draft board.

"To be honest with you, the last dialogue we had with the Blue Jays was the day of his [last] game, which was May 25th," he said. "We haven't talked after that at all, not even one sentence, since the 25th. They had a lot of guys there that day, they had six or seven guys that day, but since that time they've been on radio silence. We haven't heard from them."

And now, for the big question. Will the 6-foot-4 fireballer be honoring his commitment to Vanderbilt, or will he chase what could be a seven-figure signing bonus?

"Tonight's not really a decision night," Beede said. "Tonight's a night to enjoy with family and friends, a dream that's come true. I'll make the decision later on in the summer, but for now I'm just enjoying the time. It's going to be a hard decision either way."

Walter said the Vanderbilt commitment is "not something to be taken lightly", and that the family will start discussing a decision at the end of the week, once Tyler's graduation party is over.

Various media outlets, including ESPN, have speculated that in what could be the final year without a rookie wage scale, Beede could demand top-10 money. Walter said that there has been no discussion about any sort of pricetag with major league teams.

"Those things tend to take on a life of their own," he said. "Based on, you know, one guy from Texas says he wants 30 million, another guy says he wants 20 million. So then by law of averages, OK, if this guy wants 30, another guy wants 20, and if Tyler's as good as that guy then maybe he must want this [certain amount].

"That's not been discussed by anybody, it's not something that we've discussed with any major league team. More importantly, it hasn't been discussed with Tyler. This is ultimately Tyler's decision, this is his life. His mother and I, his brother, they're not the ones playing baseball. He's the one that's playing baseball. And I know he has a tremendous respect for [Vanderbilt] Coach [Tim] Corbin, he's known Tyler since the eighth grade. So we'll really have to weigh this heavily during the next two months. I don't anticipate it being anything quick."

Once the selection had been made, Beede's phone blew up with congratulatory calls, the television quickly switched to the Bruins' Stanley Cup Final with Vancouver, and the crowd dispersed into Cressey's backyard where two cakes sat on a round table. One was for Beede, and one was for Lincoln-Sudbury's Adam Ravenelle, a close friend who is expected to be selected on day two of the draft. Ravenelle and L-S assistant coach Matt Blake arrived on the scene fresh from a Division 1 North quarterfinal victory over St. John's Prep.

Then, it was time to make the rounds with reporters, all the while taking calls from friends, teammates, family members and various figures in the Blue Jays front office. He then made his way back into the living room, where an ESPN Boston reporter waited to put him in front of the camera.

Just before Beede's older brother Kyle was about to hit record, Walter tossed his phone across the room to Tyler.

The camera would have to wait for one moment. Roberto Alomar was on the other line.