SBCC standout pitcher brings the heat to MLB draft


J.C. Corliss

Santa Barbara City College sophomore pitcher Tyler Gilbert sits in the dugout of Pershing Park on Feb, 5, 2014, in Santa Barbara, Calif. Gilbert leads the undefeated Vaqueros and has committed to play at the University of Southern California next year.

Jameson Swain, Sports Editor

As the fans and scouts trickle into Pershing Park’s bleachers to get a look at City College’s ace left-handed pitcher Tyler Gilbert, they know they’re witnessing something special.

The 2013 Western State Conference North co-pitcher of the year and all-SoCal selection finished with a 9-2 record and a 2.43 Earned Run Average.  Through three starts in 2014, Gilbert is 3-0 with a 2.97 ERA.

The Vaqueros are 8-0 on the young season are the only remaining undefeated team in Southern California.  Gilbert’s transition from high-level pitcher to sought after professional prospect has been seamless and the Vaqueros are hoping his left arm will carry them deep into the state playoffs.

The cool, relaxed composure Gilbert possesses on the mound spurs from his upbringing in the surf off the coast of Santa Cruz.  What used to be double-overhead sets that would test his demeanor and poise is now pitching in front of a dozen Major League Baseball scouts with the bases loaded and nobody out.

“His presence on the mound is very business like.  Very professional,” pitching coach Justin Aspegren said.  “Everyone knows when Tyler is pitching – there is a different air when he takes the mound.”

Gilbert, a San Lorenzo Valley High School product, came to Santa Barbara to “spread his wings.”  With his surfboard in one hand and mitt on the other he and some friends made the decision to take the trip down south to Santa Barbara.

His decision to come down and play baseball at City College has set him up for a future under the big lights.  He is a highly touted prospect in the 2014 First-Year Major League Baseball Draft this June.

Gilbert has already signed a letter of intent to play baseball for the University of Southern California and its prestigious baseball program in 2015.  Auburn, Washington, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, UCSB and the University of San Diego were among the near dozen schools that showed great interest in the lefty.

“I’m really excited about USC and I’ve been working towards a four-year school ever since I’ve been playing baseball,” Gilbert said.  “It’ll have to be quite a bit for me to get drafted and go.”

USC’s coveted baseball program is considered one of the best in the nation and has won a record 12 national championships.

“They’re getting a community college pitcher who has had a high level of success and gained a lot of experience,” Aspegren said.

This experience and success has come from a lot of hard work and perseverance from Gilbert.  After two separate injuries his junior and senior years of high school cut his seasons short, Gilbert went into the past offseason and was able to focus on strengthening himself physically and mentally.

“A big part of it was taking the summer off,” Gilbert said.  “I threw 85 innings last year and taking the summer off helped my arm regain strength.”

During most of his starts as a freshman Gilbert was anywhere between 80 and 85 mph with his fastball.  With weightlifting and “buying into the process” this offseason, his fastball this past fall was clocked at 92 mph.

“From where he came in in the fall it’s been a lot of work on his end,” Aspegren said.  “He bought into the adjustment and committed himself to it.”

“He has been on everybody’s radar and has jumped off the map as far as the professional baseball interest as well,” head coach Jeff Walker said at Gilbert’s signing day press conference.

As the major league clubs report to Spring Training in Arizona and Florida, City College pitcher Tyler Gilbert’s major league-caliber arm will be taking the mound at Pershing Park throughout the year here in Santa Barbara.