Spring, Featured Story, Baseball

John Gorman Is Birdball’s Ace In The Hole

Standing a stocky, well built 6-foot-1 and 232 pounds, Friday night’s starting pitcher John Gorman is usually the first person opposing teams see before kicking off a series against Boston College’s baseball team.

Gorman is the staff ace. He takes the mound and leads his team into battle for the first game of every weekend go-around. The senior right-hander has been a part of many college baseball games, but his long journey to this point started only 10.4 miles away.

Growing up in Norwood, Mass., baseball was Gorman’s self-professed first love. He recalls spending days in his front yard throwing the ball with his father, Jack, when a neighbor made a passing comment that ended up being incredibly prophetic.

“When I was three, we were playing catch and I threw one way over his head as my neighbor was walking by,” Gorman said. “He made a joke, something like, ‘that kid is going to be in the majors someday.’ You can say that to any little kid, but it was just funny because baseball has given me so much.”

These days, Gorman has bigger concerns than hitting his father’s glove in the yard. After a few rough seasons in a row, BC baseball is facing an uphill battle to compete in the ACC, and a lot of the weight falls on Gorman at the front of the pitching staff.

Through two appearances this season, Gorman is 0-1 with a 6.30 ERA, part of the reason for BC’s early struggles—but he has taken on the biggest workload of the staff by far.

For the Eagles to turn it around, they’ll rely heavily on Gorman to set a positive tone early in his starts.

“I love the opportunity of getting to throw on Friday nights,” he said, “and having that chance to go win us the first game of a series, that means a lot to me.”

John Gorman is a starter.

Gorman was passed over in the 2014 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. That hurt him, but he didn’t dwell on it. He spent his summer playing for the Bourne Braves of the Cape Cod Baseball League—a collegiate league officially sponsored by the MLB—before returning to BC for his final season.

A Massachusetts boy all his life—he attended nearby Catholic Memorial School—Gorman understood the value of getting to play against top-notch competition close to home, and he knew he had to take advantage.

“The Cape has a great reputation around the country, and I had a blast there,” Gorman said. “Being local, it’s been a dream of mine to play in the Cape League, so I had a lot of fun with it.”

For the Braves, Gorman came out of the bullpen as a closer, an experience that he says is radically different than that of a starting pitcher. Whereas starters have to sustain their energy over an entire day, relievers just relax for the first six innings or so of a ballgame, then dial up the intensity to unsafe levels for the final stretch.

“You get a completely different adrenaline rush as a closer,” Gorman said. “I just get super energized at that one moment when I get called because that’s the attitude you need to have at the end of a game.”

Former players will often say that the hardest three outs to get in a game are the last ones, but that wasn’t much of a problem for Gorman in Cape Cod. In just over 17 innings pitched, Gorman gave up four earned runs for an ERA of 2.03. He compiled four saves, good for second-best on the team, and struck out 21 hitters while holding opponents to just a .200 batting average against.

Whether it’s the first out or the last out, Gorman approaches every hitter he faces with the mentality that he will not be intimidated by the opposition. He goes after every batter he faces, regardless of reputation, with the intention of using his combination of muscle and finesse against each and every player in the lineup.

“I’m not trying to play around out there,” he said. “I have an insane, competitive aspect to myself, especially in big situations. I’m going to attack the zone and make them beat me.”

John Gorman is a closer.

When the time to elect team captains came around, Birdball players had a fairly easy decision to make. Chosen by his peers, Gorman is in charge of watching over the pitching staff, while co-captain Blake Butera handles the position players.

Butera is soft-spoken and more of a lead-by-example type of player, but Gorman likes to get his guys fired up. He admits that he talks a big game, but it helps his teammates feel involved and picks up the emotion in the locker room.

“I’m not really quiet, and I don’t like being in the background,” Gorman said. “I have so much energy and passion for the game, so I like to get the guys excited.”

And Butera can attest to that.

“John’s always the guy that’s yelling and getting everyone up before games,” he said. “He provides energy with his voice, and that’s just what he loves to do.”

Current BC head coach Mike Gambino recruited Gorman while he was an assistant at Virginia Tech in 2009, then had to convince him to stay committed to BC after Gambino took the head coaching job on the Heights from Mike Aoki.

Gambino had high praise for Gorman’s work ethic, crediting him for turning BC into an extremely hard-working team all-around.

“He’s driven to get better himself, but he’s just as driven to help everyone around him get better,” Gambino said. “He’s not afraid to tell somebody, ‘what you’re doing is not good enough. We need more from you.’”

John Gorman is a leader.

Gorman and his teammates like to enjoy themselves a little when they’re out on the field. Whether it’s video game tournaments or playing practical jokes on the freshmen—like telling them to retrieve the nonexistent “keys” to the batter’s box from the Red Sox before their inaugural matchup each spring—Gorman and the gang like to keep it light in the clubhouse.  

The senior fondly recalled the funniest moment he’s been apart of during his time at BC, which happened last year during a road game against North Carolina State. It was one of just a few BC games that streamed online that season.

During a break in play, Gorman and his partners in crime pulled one of the most classic dugout tricks on an unsuspecting Logan Hoggarth. Using a piece of gum as the glue, they mounted a plastic cup on top of his hat, and Hoggarth never suspected a thing.

The rest, as Gorman explained, was captured for the world to see.

“Logan went out to warm up the left fielder with the cup on his head,” Gorman said with a laugh, “and the broadcast comes back from commercial to catch him out there. They have a video of him trying to throw the ball he was using up to a kid in the stands, but it took him three tries to get it to the kid.”

“That couldn’t have come at a better time for us,” Gambino added with a smile. “We scuffled a little bit going into NC State, and that helped us get our confidence and playfulness back. We won eight out of nine games after that.”

John Gorman is a prankster.

The sun starts to fade behind heavy gray storm clouds in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on a windy Friday afternoon. The pitcher stands on top of a heap of dirt in the center of the infield in the bottom of the third inning, two outs already recorded. With hunched shoulders and a menacing glare, he stares down his next victim, a Louisiana State Tiger clad in a bright yellow jersey straight out of the 1990s.

He sneaks a fastball at the knees past the hitter on the first pitch, and then watches as the Tiger waves desperately at a curveball that bounces before it reaches the plate on his next offering. He then wastes a pitch just barely outside the zone—as most good pitchers do—before uncorking his fatal blow.

With the bill of his gray BC cap pulled down just above the eyes, the pitcher winds up and unleashes a heater that paints the edge of the corner down and away. The Tiger can do nothing but sit with the bat locked on his shoulder as the fastball’s momentum is halted with a thud of the catcher’s mitt. The pitcher twists his body and pops his head up just in time to see the umpire punch out the helpless Tiger. He pumps his fist as he struts off the mound and returns to the dugout, destined to ring up another hitter.

John Gorman is ready.

Featured Image by Drew Hoo / Heights Editor

February 25, 2015
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