Finneytown fans got an inkling that it was going to be an exceptional year for spring sports when senior Joey Gerbus opened the baseball season with a no-hitter. He calls himself “a sports guy,” but he’s also a dedicated student -- and a really good big brother. Meet Joey.
So when did you realize you had a no-hitter going in that first game?
JG: It was the fifth inning, and I walked back to the stands next to the dugout. I was talking to a parent. I just realized there hadn’t been a hit in the game, and they were taking out their pitcher. I said, “There’s a no-hitter going on with both teams, and he’s getting taken out, but I’m still in.” Then I just thought about winning the game. That was the goal we were talking about before we ever went out on the field – ‘Let’s go win this game.’
The only thing is when you have a no-hitter, the pitcher is supposed to sit by himself, and nobody’s supposed to talk to him. But I kind of broke that rule.
Is a game like that just a blur, or do you remember anything specific about it?
JG: The one that sticks out to me was the fifth inning. I threw a pitch to the last hitter and he hit it right up the middle. I ended up catching it, and that was the moment everyone knew it was going to be a special game.
So does a pitcher know if he’s ‘on’ that night?
JG: You get the vibe right at the beginning, when you’re warming up. A certain pitch is working good. But you can still go out there, and the other team is so much better.
What do you like most about pitching?
JG: I kind of fell in love with pitching because the game is in your hands. You can take it and run with it, or you can kind of hide from it. I’ve been taught by my dad to trust your defense. You’ve got to just throw it over, and then trust the guys behind you. They want some of the action, too. (He grins.) After the no-hitter, our shortstop came up to me and said, ‘I’m glad you did so well, but you could have let me have a play.’
When did you start playing baseball?
JG: When I was four, at the Y. My parents kind of lied on my application. You had to be five or six.
When did you realize you could pitch?
JG: I was seven. I was babysat by my neighbor. I told him, this is the summer we’re going from coach-pitch to kid-pitch. So we’d go in the side yard and always work on pitching. Then it moved to the street because there was more room.
Talk about the activities that led to where you are today.
JG: I played FAA for two years and then travel ball. I played coach-pitch for three years. At nine, it was kid pitch, and then travel ball all the way up. You go to a bunch of tryouts, and then coaches select from that group of kids.
So how much baseball do you play now?
JG: I play 50 or 60 games per season, with high school and summer ball. That’s my whole summer. It’s weekends. You play Friday, Saturday and Sunday, five to six games a weekend. I mostly play the infield – second or third base – and then rotate as pitcher. Everybody switches around.
You had 14 strikeouts in that no-hitter – the first game of the season!
JG: That was a big number even for me. The first two innings, I had a total of four strikeouts. I think other people were counting. I got the number mixed up in my head. I’m just glad we won. It gives the school something else to cheer about.
You guys are doing well. What do you see as the keys to a great season?
JG: We all need to, in a sense, buy in. It kind of helps that our entire varsity roster is seniors and juniors and one sophomore. We just need to put it all out there, to do it for the team.
So what’s the best advice you’ve been given about baseball? And when you’re out there pitching, what do you tell yourself?
JG: With pitching, when you’re on the mound, you think you’re the best in the world, and no matter who you’re facing, they can’t hit you. That was like the atmosphere around me – my coaches said it, my dad said it to me, my neighbor said it to me. I tell myself to stay within myself and control only what I can control.
You describe yourself as a “sports guy,” but you’re in a lot of other activities.
JG: Soccer, basketball, baseball, National Honor Society, Young Life. I also have a job. I’m a clerk at a pharmacy. I work one or two days a week. I kind of like balance it out.
Tell us your plans for next year.
JG: I’m going to Earlham College. I’ve signed a letter of intent. I’m going to major in pharmaceutical science.
Name the biggest influences in your life.
JG: My brothers. My family adopted my two brothers when I was eight. My family has been in the foster care/adoption system for a while. I say I have seven siblings, but only two stay with me. The other five live with their biological mother, but they come and stay at our house sometimes. That has had the biggest impact on my life, being the role model at least and thinking about my actions and trying to bring them up where they should be – plus not to take anything for granted.
I know I’ve got two younger brothers coming up. I’m just trying to have them have a good name to live up to.
Three words that describe Joey Gerbus?
JG: Compassionate, determined, sociable