It seems when you’re Justin Gallagher, nothing is impossible.
Prior to a doubleheader this year against Wellpinit, St. George’s School coach Scott Pate found his baseball team a little short-handed. When he needed a catcher, he called on his all-Panorama League pitcher and shortstop to fill the void.
“We’re in a spot right now with injuries and being on spring break where, literally, we had nine guys,” said Pate. Since Gallagher is “the best athlete on the field, I asked him if he’d be willing to put the gear on. He just jumped at the chance and just wanted to do whatever he could to help out.”
“I played when I was little in T-ball, but you don’t really do anything because it’s T-ball,” Gallagher laughed.
Catching “has been a really fun experience though. I seem to have trouble when I need to drop down and block the ball or just stick my glove down and block it. That’s probably the toughest part so far, but I’m working on it. Hopefully, I’ll improve on that,” he said.
Just like his performance on the hill or in the infield, Gallagher was pretty flawless in his cameo behind the dish in the Dragons’ sweep of Wellpinit April 3. Throw in going five for nine at the plate with two home runs and 12 runs batted in in the two contests and it’s easy to understand why the St. George’s junior has Division I schools interested in his abilities.
But the question is: Where do you play the kid who can play anywhere?
“That’s the tough thing,” said Pate. “I’m a scout for the San Diego Padres, and I can’t decide. I’m not saying he’s a draft pick kind of kid yet, but down the road, it’s a possibility.
“I look at him on the mound, and he’s made so many leaps and bounds. He’s gotten so much better this year. His fastball is now in the 85 to 87 (mph) range, which is very hard for a high school kid.
“Then you look at him at the plate. He’s got such a great approach. He hits for power, hits for average, knows the game, runs the bases well – he just does it all.
“Every college coach I’ve talked to about Justin, I’ve said, ‘Hey, you’ve got a two-way player.’ He can play third base and outfield at the Division I level, and I really believe he’s a Division I pitcher. We’re just going to have to wait and see. The sky’s the limit for him.” Pate said.
Gallagher is a four-pitch pitcher, throwing the fastball, curve, slider and changeup. Last year, he won eight games on the hill, striking out 97 batters in 68 innings, while his ERA was a minuscule 1.00.
“I’ve been working with a knuckle a little bit, but that probably won’t come into play until midseason,” he said.
Defensively, Gallagher is one of the top shortstops in the area.
“The coaches always tell me I have really good footwork,” he said. “I can move around quickly and set my feet and make a good throw even if I’m hurried with time. In the off-season, I do a lot of speed, quickness and agility drills.”
But it is Gallagher’s hitting that may send him to the next level. After hitting a whopping .580 last season with 10 homers, he is on a greater pace this season.
“Hitting’s probably the thing I work the most on,” Gallagher said. “It, in turn, helps me see the ball better, recognize what pitches they’re throwing or pick up tendencies the pitcher is doing, knowing the pitch before he throws it, the ability to know what the pitcher is going to do next.
“I mainly work on my hands and where my hands follow through. It’s really important I don’t drop my shoulder and get an uppercut. That’s one of the bigger things that kills a high-school hitter because they try to hit too many homers, so they dip their shoulder and get that big uppercut swing they see the pros doing. I mainly stay away from that and keep a nice level, smooth swing,” he said.
As schools such as San Jose State show interest in Gallagher, he deflects all the attention by leading his young team toward defending its Panorama League title.
“That’s the neat thing about him,” said Pate. “He gets it. He understands that the individual accomplishments are great – trust me, he’s got a ton of them. By the time he’s done here, he’ll be as highly decorated as any B school position player, yet he gets that he has to do the little things to help the team be better.
“That’s a pretty cool combination for a kid that young,” Pate continued. “He could easily bask in the glow, but he’s a good teammate, a good captain and very positive. We’ve got some young kids who aren’t nearly as skilled. It’s pretty special when you get a kid who chooses to be the captain and takes the kids to help them get better, knowing in the long run, that’s the best thing for his team.
“I got pretty lucky getting him.”