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Monday, August 19, 2013

Interview Part 2: Gavin Osteen, Right There

Toronto's SkyDome in 2006. Gavin Osteen recalled he was supposed to pitch for Oakland at the SkyDome in 1994, but illness prevented him from going. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: Fine Tuned | Part 2: Right There

Gavin Osteen knew he was on the brink of making it. He knew it because he had just been called up to the bigs this summer in 1994, but missed his shot because he was sick.

He also soon got injured. His shoulder wasn't right. Knowing what he knew, though, he tried to pitch on, pitch through it.

"I came back and tried to keep pitching because I'm too close, I'm there," Osteen recalled recently to The Greatest 21 Days. "I'm right there. I'm the next guy. I always felt that way.

"So, let's get better, lets get this thing feeling better and keep going out there and keep trying to pitch," Osteen recalled thinking. "Big mistake."

It was a mistake because his shoulder, and his fastball kept getting worse.

"It was always just like, keep chugging along, don't stop and start feeling sorry for yourself and quit," Osteen recalled. "Keep going and you'll get there. That's when I ended up having surgery that off-season. I was out a year and a half. When you come back, nobody knows your name."

Osteen did come back, and he continued pitching for another six professional seasons. He even returned far enough to get back to that brink, mentioned as a possible call up to Baltimore.
Gavin Osteen in August 2013 with some of the trophies his youth teams have won. (G21D Photo)
Osteen, though, never did make it to the bigs, but he has gone on to a career as a youth baseball instructor with Full Count and tournament operator with Future Stars Tournaments, both in his native central Pennsylvania.

Osteen spoke to The Greatest 21 Days in August 2013 at his Harrisburg training facility. He spoke about his youth, growing up in Pennsylvania in a baseball family. His father Claude Osteen played and coached in the majors. His oldest brother Dave Osteen, also played as a pro.

Gavin Osteen also touched on his own run through the minors, making it to AAA and even getting his call to the bigs, only to have illness, then injury prevent him from taking that last step.

Working his way through the minors, Osteen recalled always thinking he could play in the majors. He always believed in his stuff.

Osteen started at Southern Oregon, then moved to single-A Madison for 1990. At Madison, Osteen went 10-10, with a 3.10 ERA over 27 starts.

Throughout his early run, Osteen recalled not being afraid of anything. Soon, he found himself pitching with some of the Athletics' top draft picks, and standing out.

At AA Huntsville in 1991, Osteen's third season as a pro, Osteen went 13-9, with a 3.54 ERA. "I just went off," Osteen said.

"I out-pitched those guys. The next year, I was on the 40-man roster," Osteen recalled. "If there was a change, that was it. That's what put me on the map."
A newspaper photo of Gavin Osteen in Huntsville posted at his Harrisburg training facility. (G21D Photo)
In the lower minors, Osteen recalled keeping focused on what was in front of him. After that season at Huntsville, the possibility of making it started to become more real.

He even got time in major league camp, pitching against major leaguers and getting confidence there. In that 1991 season at Huntsville, Osteen recalled pitching a two-hit, complete-game shutout against the AA Braves team that included Chipper Jones.

"That opened some eyes," Osteen said. "I felt like that year and maybe the next year that it was only a matter of time before I'd get called up."
It was in 1994 that he finally got his call. He was supposed to go up and pitch for Oakland in Toronto. But he was sick, and he soon got hurt. He later learned he had a torn labrum. The surgery and rehab knocked him out for essentially two full seasons 1995 and 1996.

By the time he returned, the Athletics had moved on. That, Osteen said, bothered him. But he kept rehabbing. Midway through 1997, Osteen caught on with the Orioles, playing that season at AA Bowie.

For 1998, Osteen returned to AAA, at Rochester. In 44 relief outings there, he posted a 3.96 ERA. Again there was talk of bringing Osteen up, he recalled. But it didn't materialize.

Osteen continued playing through 2002, in the minors, independent ball and in Mexico. He played his final full season in affiliated ball in 1999, in the Dodgers system at AAA Albuquerque.

The 1998 Rochester Red Wings team photo posted in Gavin Osteen's Harrisburg training facility. Osteen is third in from the left on the second row. (G21D Photo)
That season in the Dodgers system also paired Osteen up with his father, Claude, who served as Albuquerque's pitching coach.

At first, Gavin recalled keeping his distance from his father, not wanting any special treatment, or the perception of special treatment. After talking to a friend, though, the son finally lightened up, and started enjoying his summer with his dad.

"You don't have to explain yourself to anyone," Osteen recalled his friend telling him. "Go have fun with your dad."

When he retired, Gavin recalled he was ready to retire, stop getting on buses and airplanes and living out of suitcases. It took him years, he recalled, to actually start using drawers for his clothes. 

Now Gavin is going through the parenting role again. His oldest son, Derrick, is 24 and played baseball in college at William & Mary. But he also now has two younger kids, a son and daughter age 6 and 4 with his wife Jennifer.

He now also has his training and tournament businesses, which he runs with friend and former teammate Neil Weber.

As far as working with kids, Osteen recalls his own approach to the game as a player, as a head-strong player.

"A lot of this game that I try to get through with these kids is the mental part of the game," Osteen said. "In my mind, if you second-guess yourself, if you have doubt, you're going lose the battle. Whatever that battle is, you're losing it.

"You've got to trust yourself and basically have an attitude that you're going to beat that other person."

1 comment:

  1. Great article about a great instructor and person. I miss those days my Grandsons learned from you and played for the Mavs.