Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 30
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
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PITCHING GEM: Brad Gemberling fires a pitch this spring in his senior campaign with the Princeton University baseball team. After earning honorable mention All-Ivy League this spring, Gemberling was drafted in the 26th round of the Major League Baseball Draft in June. The 6’2, 205-pound righthander is currently pitching for the Yakima Bears of the Northwest League, a Short-Season A classification.

After Going the Distance for Princeton Baseball, Gemberling Heads West to Start Pro Career

Bill Alden

When Brad Gemberling came to Princeton University in 2005, it wasn’t a sure thing that he would make it to graduation.

Gemberling’s ability to handle things academically at Princeton wasn’t in doubt. Entering the school as a heralded pitching prospect, though, there was a good chance that Gemberling would be taken in the Major League Baseball Draft before making it all the way through college.

Although Gemberling steadily improved over his college career, seeing the velocity on his fastball go from the mid-80s to 88-91 m.p.h., the righthander from Swarthmore, Pa. wasn’t snapped up by any big league teams before graduation.

In retrospect, Gemberling realizes that he gained a lot from sticking around Princeton through graduation. “College was a great experience,” said Gemberling, who was an honorable mention All-Ivy League selection this spring and ended his Tiger career with 177 strikeouts, seventh best in program history.

“Taking classes from some of the smartest people in the world, I met a number of interesting and unique people. The diversity of people unlike anything I had been exposed to. Going to Princeton gives you the confidence that you can do anything off the field. I wrote a 100-page thesis so I know I could write a report for a company.”

Days after graduation this June, Gemberling got the chance to report to a pro baseball team as he was taken by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 26th round of the MLB Draft and sent to the Yakima Bears of the Northwest League, a Short-Season A classification.

For Gemberling, getting chosen in the 26th round of the draft turned out to be worth the wait.

“I was told I would go in rounds 11-25, I started paying attention in the teens,” said Gemberling, who was watching a video feed of the draft on-line.

“I was talking to my girlfriend when I heard that the Arizona Diamondback had picked Brad Gemberling. I hadn’t talked to them so I was surprised that they picked me. It was tough to think about everything because my mother was screaming in the background. Then the phone started ringing off the hook.”

The 6’2, 205-pound Gemberling credits Princeton head coach Scott Bradley with playing a big role in his selection in the draft.

“More than any other coach in the league, he has a plan for guys who want to play pro ball,” said Gemberling. “He gets you on the radar with the pro scouts.”

Working with Bradley over the last four years helped Gemberling improve his pro stock.

“He was a major league catcher so he has a great idea what it takes to get hitters out,” added Gemberling, who went 5-3 this spring and ended his Tiger career with an overall record of 12-6.

“He helps with things like getting ahead in the count, being deceptive whether changing speeds or using a funky arm delivery. He was not only a catcher but a hitter, so he has seen it from both sides.”

Gemberling underwent a systematic approach over his Princeton career.

“My goal each year was to improve at some aspect of my pitching,” said Gemberling, whose progress was aided by pitching in the high-powered Cape Cod League the last two summers.

“I was in the mid-80s with a good slider when I came. I progressed with my command; I developed a change-up. I left with a velocity of 88-91 m.p.h. I have a much better slider and a better feel for my change-up.”

As he pitches for Yakima, Gemberling is utilizing a similar mindset on a daily basis.

“My main goal is to improve every day; some guys spend so much time worrying about when they are getting moved,” said Gemberling.

“I look to improve on something each day and not worry about what happened yesterday. The coaches and management see the guys who are working hard. You can’t worry about the front office; that is something out of your control.”

In his pro debut in late June against Eugene, Gemberling struggled to maintain control of his emotions.

“I was very amped up; it was very exciting and I was trying to calm myself down,” said Gemberling, who gave up two runs and three hits in two innings that night.

“I think I calmed myself down too much. In the second outing, I was amped up and I did much better.”

Gemberling has been doing better when he stays ahead of the hitters. “It is definitely all about locating in the strike zone, it’s not velocity and not movement,” said Gemberling, who was 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA after his first seven appearances.

“The guys who execute, do better and have success. When I have been working ahead in counts, I have had good innings. The batter can’t take the same swing at 0-2 as he can when it is 2-0. You need to pitch with confidence; it is tougher to pitch when you are always behind in the count.”

While Gemberling enjoyed getting the chance to spend four years with his Princeton classmates, he is thrilled to finally be embarking on his unique career path.

“It’s fun,” asserted Gemberling. “I talk to people working other jobs or going to graduate school. I am sleeping in and going to the ballpark at 2:30 or 3:00 to catch flies. There is pressure but it is not pressure to pay the mortgage. It is not that kind of pressure.”

And with the confidence Gemberling gained in going the distance at Princeton, he should be able to handle the pressure that comes his way.

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