Gargus plays, preps for Classic

Photo: Henry Gargus (Perfect Game)

Jeff Dahn
Published: Tuesday, August 7, 2018

See also: Classic supports Rady Children's Hospital

The calendar has flipped to August, which means its go-time for the nation’s top high school baseball players. For the upperclassman – the guys who are about to start their senior year – this is not the time to take their collective foot off the gas. There are regional tournaments to be played and Perfect Game showcases to attend before the school bell rings in a couple of weeks.

Count Henry Gargus among the goers. Gargus, a 6-foot, 205-pound switch-hitting, left-handed throwing first baseman who attends A.C. Davis High School in Yakima, Wash., is consumed with the game and he’s hoping it’s a condition that never goes away.

“I love playing baseball … and I’ve been playing baseball every day for two weeks,” Gargus told PG late last week. “I’m going to be on the road for a month and I cannot get sick of it; I love baseball. … I’ve been trying to stay strong – I go to the weight room as much as I can – and I’ve been feeling really good.”

When Gargus spoke with PG, he was actually in San Diego where he and his teammates with the Walla Walla Sweets Baseball Club were taking part in the Phil Singer Summer Series Tournament; they had played in a tournament in Utah the previous week.

He was staying in San Diego through Saturday, when he would hop in a car and ride up to Long Beach to begin play at this week’s Upperclass Area Code Games (Aug. 6-10). Gargus’ time in Southern California won’t end with his participation at the Area Codes, however.

By the end of the week he’ll be back in San Diego enjoying all the happenings that accompany the 16th annual Perfect Game All-American Classic. He will be playing for the West team at the all-star event, which will be played Aug. 12 at the Padres’ Petco Park and televised live on the MLB Network.

“It’s a huge blessing just because it’s pretty much the (52) best players in the country; it’s an honor to get to play with them,” Gargus said of receiving the PGAAC invitation. “It’s been one of my dreams to be an All-American for Perfect Game, and for it to come true, it’s an amazing feeling.”

Like each of this year’s 52 Perfect Game All-Americans, Gargus – ranked the No. 28 overall national prospect and No. 1 first baseman in his class – was invited to the Classic thanks to a standout performance at the PG National Showcase at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., in June.

His appearance at the National capped a nice three-year run when he attended three of PG’s premier showcase events: the 2016 PG Underclass All-American Games in San Diego and the 2017 PG Junior National Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla., which preceded the National. He was included on the Top Prospect List at both the Under AA Games and the Jr. National (only a Top Prospect Team is named at the National).

“It was a great experience,” Gargus said of being at The Trop. “I had a fun time playing with everyone, playing with my buddy Corbin (Carroll), and I was on a really good team. I got to be really good friends with a lot of them and I actually had three guys from that team that were on my (Tournament of Stars) team in North Carolina the next week. …

“I love playing in Florida, even though we were indoors, and I had never played in a major league stadium before until then, so it was really fun.”

Gargus was a part of the stacked PG Green team roster at the National, with a heavy emphasis on stacked! He was one of nine players off that showcase team that were extended invitations to the Classic; the others: Matthew Allan (Fla.), Myles Austin (Ga.), Corbin Carroll (from Wash.), Cade Doughty (La.), Riley Greene (Fla.), Hylan Hall (Fla.), Matthew Thompson (Texas) and Anthony Volpe (N.J.). Hall, Thompson and Joshua Hahn from that team joined Gargus on the Pride team at the TOS in Cary, N.C.

The class of 2019 has been much-heralded as a very athletic class filled with multiple-sport prospects who talents were displayed in full at The Trop, and that wasn’t lost on Gargus.

“Our guys, they’re not so much just pure baseball players,” he said. “They can do a lot of other things but they’ve pursued baseball as much as they could, so they’re talents are just through the roof in baseball. They’re very athletic: they can run, they can jump and they’re strong.”

Gargus takes a backseat to no one with his athleticism, as he showed at the PG National. He ran a 6.70-second 60-yard dash and showed his strength and raw power at the plate. As his scouting report noted “Power is (Gargus’) tool and there’s plenty of it” and “(He) can launch them as high and as far as anyone.”

And Gargus isn’t a one-trick pony, either. He is a member of the Davis HS basketball and golf teams in addition to captaining the baseball team – he is a former track and field standout, as well – and he feels like being a basketball and golf athlete makes him not only a better baseball athlete, as well.

“Every sport does something for another sport,” he said. “If you just practice one sport too much, your muscles can be one-sided. I like to keep a kind of well-rounded feel through the offseason just so I don’t just have baseball muscles – I want to keep all the muscles intact.”

Gargus’ coach with the WW Sweets is Jeff Cirillo, a former corner-infielder who played parts of 14 seasons (1994-2007) in the big leagues with six teams, including eight with the Brewers. He’s definitely someone Gargus looks up to, and someone who has made his experiences with the Sweets program all that much more special.

“Coach Jeff Cirillo is a great a great coach and he has a great baseball mind; I pick his brain as much as possible,” he said. “My teammates, they’re all my brothers, and I have their back no matter what. It’s a close-knit association where I can call up one of my coaches or one of my teammates and I know they’ll always pick up.”

One of Gargus’ teammates with the Sweets, at the PG National Showcase, at the Tournament of Stars and now at the PG All-American Classic is Corbin Carroll from Seattle. Corbin – a 2019 outfielder and UCLA commit ranked No. 17 nationally – and Gargus go way back.

“I started playing with (Carroll) during summer ball when we were 13,” Gargus said. “We’ve always just been close and we’ve become a lot closer these past three years with summer ball and showcases. We’ve been training together and we always push each other. I love that guy; he’s a great guy.”

The city of Yakima has a long baseball tradition and was the home of the short-season Yakima Bears minor league team (Diamondbacks affiliate) in the Northwest League from 1990-2012. It is now the home of the Yakima Valley Pippins of the West Coast League, an 11-team summer collegiate wood bat league in the Northwest.

“Yakima has always been a strong baseball town, and it’s always been nice growing up here,” Gargus said. “No other sports are really pushed except for baseball, just because of baseball’s rich history in Yakima.”

Gargus’ coach at Davis HS is Jay Gainer, a former first baseman who played in 23 games for the expansion Colorado Rockies in 1993 and actually hit a home run in his first big-league at bat. Gainer also runs Baseball Advantage, an indoor baseball and fastpitch softball training facility in Yakima.

Another top Washington state prospect, 2019 infielder Carter Young from nearby Selah, and Gargus have been training together with Gainer since they were 11 years old. Young is a Vanderbilt commit ranked No. 74 overall in his class who played with CBA Marucci at the PG 17u WWBA National Championship in early July.

The development of young players like Gargus and Young is bound to attract scouts to the Yakima area next spring as they check out how much the guys – and their teammates – have improved.

“I know I have progressed but I know there’s always room for improvement,” Gargus said. “I still want to get my numbers up … but I’m happy with my progression.”

Gargus said he was making a “life decision rather than a baseball decision” when he made his commitment to Stanford in February 2017 (his sophomore year). He’s smart enough to know that a degree from such a prestigious academic institution – one that also happens to have a prestigious baseball program – will serve him well once he’s done playing baseball.

So, Stanford is there – it’s a known commodity – but as Gargus’ stock continues to rise in the collective eyes of the scouting community, the 2019 MLB June Amateur Draft could certainly come into play. And Gargus doesn’t back away from any of the draft speculation that’s out there.

“Of course I think about the draft; my overall goal is to be a professional baseball player so I can’t set that aside,” he said. “So, yeah, I think about it all the time.”

But first things first. When Gargus was in San Diego for the PG Underclass All-American Games in 2016, he got to town a day early so he could attend that year’s PG All-American Classic. He remembered vividly who made the start for the West squad in that game.

“I was there and I watched Hunter Greene pitch; it was crazy,” he said, quickly adding that really got him thinking about actually playing in the game two years down the road.

That day is almost here, and that’s a good thing for the kid from Yakima who just never gets sick of playing baseball.

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