College Baseball: Gaul Adjusting to Life Off the Mound
Wildcat Southpaw: Former GNAC Pitcher of the Year Ready for Next Chapter
By Jordan Nailon
When he was in high school, Mack Gaul wracked up mileage up and down I-5 in order to land himself a Division I baseball scholarship. He spent untold hours traversing the interstate traffic in order to play for a summer baseball team in the Seattle area along with former Mossyrock ace John Pomeroy.
“We knew we could play at the next level. It was just a matter of getting exposure,” noted Gaul. “It’s pretty tough to get that exposure in Lewis County, especially when you’re in the smaller schools.”
Gaul’s willingness to travel, along with his strong left arm, helped him attain that goal and land a spot with the University of Washington, but it was his competitive nature and unwillingness to settle that eventually paved the way for his arrival in Ellensburg. Meanwhile, Pomeroy parlayed his exposure into a spot on the Oregon State University roster and is now attempting to work his way through the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system
Gaul, a 2013 graduate of Toledo High School, wound up rostering two years at UW before moving on to ply his trade among the cow fields that surround Central Washington University. He redshirted his first year at UW before joining the active roster as an academic sophomore. That season, Gaul says he did everything that was asked of him and surrendered exactly zero runs. The only problem was that he was given only one inning of work all season long.
“My freshman year, I didn’t really mind riding the pine and redshirting. We had a good team that year and if we’re good, I don’t mind sitting,” said Gaul.
However, during his second year at UW while the team struggled, Gaul grew increasingly frustrated with his lack of opportunity to prove himself.
“I’d maybe understand if I’d given up a 7-spot but I went 1-2-3 and I never saw the field again. You expect to get another chance,” explained Gaul, who manages to express his frustration without sounding bitter. “I was kind of falling out of love with baseball honestly but I knew I didn’t want to do that.”
When that slog of a season came to an end Gaul approached his coaches and asked for his release so that he could take his talents down the old dusty trail to Central Washington. He says his coaches were understanding about his predicament and obliged his request, which is perhaps why Gaul has managed to keep a healthy perspective on his time on the leash with the Huskies. He says he even rooted for UW this season as they made their march to the College World Series in Omaha.
“I wanted them to win it all because I still have teammates on there. My roommate was the closer for them this year. He is actually one of the groomsman in my wedding coming up,” explained Gaul. “The experience was really nice. It’s a top of the line education there. We got tutors free and all the Nike gear, but there was still something missing and that was being on the field and really enjoying it.”
After abandoning his dreams of being a Division I contributor on the diamond, Gaul quickly proved his worth with the Division II Wildcats. He noted that his coaches at UW had tried to convert him into a sidearm pitcher in order to increase his effectiveness against left handed hitters but the adjustment never felt comfortable.
“It was kind of a fresh start there. The coaches were a lot more approachable at Central compared to UW,” said Gaul. “I knew I could throw harder over the top so I threw over the top.”
Gaul earned a spot in the starting rotation by the time games rolled around in the springtime in Ellensburg and he never looked back. During his redshirt sophomore year, he was tabbed as an honorable mention selection in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference and the following year, he was named the GNAC Pitcher of the Year while earning a second team selection for the West Region. That campaign included three complete game shutouts in a span of four starts and Gaul finished the season with six wins, a 3.06 ERA and a GNAC-leading 68 strikeouts in 70.2 innings pitched.
Last season, his redshirt senior year, a shoulder injury hobbled Gaul for the majority of the season and dropped his fastball from the 90 miles per hour range down to a high of 82 mph. Despite the loss of velocity and the impact on his stat line, Gaul gutted it out and pitched the entire season for the Wildcats in his farewell campaign. The effort earned Gaul the team’s Most Inspirational Award, as voted on by his teammates.
“I just kept grinding because I knew I wasn’t going to stay there another year,” said Gaul. “I was really hoping to possibly get drafted or signed but it was just one of those things where life happens and you’ve just got to push through it anyways.”
With his baseball career all wrapped up now, Gaul says he has often pondered if he would have been better off going to a Division II school, or even a two-year NWAC school, rather than chasing the prestige of a Division I program right out of the chute.
“I definitely would say that each Division II team has at least a couple guys who could play D1,” said Gaul. “I kind of fell into that trap out of high school and holding out for a Division I offer.”
Regret is not a feeling that Gaul seems to suffer with any kind of frequency, though.
“It’s something that I’ve wondered about but I honestly don’t know because I appreciate all the friends I made and the experiences along the way,” said Gaul.
Among those friends is his old carpool pal Pomeroy, who Gaul says he still snapchats with regularly. Gaul also counts Braden Bishop, a prospect in the Seattle Mariners organization who played at UW, among his friends from the ballfield.
“He’s a great guy. I really looked up to him a lot when I was at UW,” said Gaul, who noted that Bishop’s mother suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease and his old teammate has made considerable charitable efforts to raise money for Alzheimer’s Disease research. “I thought it was very cool that he brought in all of his teammates at UW on that. We all had his back on it and he knew he wasn’t going to go through it alone.”
As a prep player, Gaul spent his last three seasons as a member of the combined Toledo-Winlock Warhawks baseball team. He says those mixed squads were fun to be a part of because it gave both schools the best chance to win.
“It was fun having a rivalry between them but it was also nice to combine because you get the best of both sides of the freeway,” said Gaul. “Basically we were able to put together a more competitive team there.”
He says it was humbling to see how much his success at the collegiate level meant to the community back in his hometown. Over the years, he’s spent time in the offseason working with area baseball players in the Winlock batting cage while also mentoring local prospects like Wyatt Stanley, who he worked a county flagging job with last summer, as he navigates the college baseball scene.
With his playing days behind him now, Gaul says it’s being a part of a team that he will miss the most.
“Honestly I think it’s the camaraderie and friendships you make going through it. I know that a lot of my teammates will be my friends for the rest of my life,” he said. “Maybe later down the road I’ll coach somewhere, whether its summer ball or high school ball, but I definitely want to keep baseball in my life.”
Gaul is currently living in Olympia and working out of Fife in sales while he prepares for his upcoming marriage. As he adjusts to life off of the mound and outside of the chalked lines he offered the following advice for others who are trying to navigate a path to success and no regrets.
“I am excited to get on with my life,” insisted Gaul. “You’ve got to enjoy it. Live in the moment. You don’t always want to be thinking about the future. Enjoy the times and the relationships that you’re making.”