The answer to the first question people always ask Trevor Gretzky is, “Because the closest rink was about an hour away from our house.”
But instead of asking Gretzky why he plays baseball instead of hockey, the sport of his famous father, Wayne, it makes as much sense to ask why he’s not playing football.
Gretzky played quarterback for Oaks Christian (Calif.) High School, which produced Jimmy Clausen (Carolina Panthers/Notre Dame), Joe Montana’s son Nick (Tulane/Washington) and former Boise State receiver Chris Potter.
Gretzky, however, tore his labrum during the first football game of his senior season at Oaks Christian. Some people may have projected a football future for him, but Gretzky never put much stock in what people expected of him.
Luckily, he already had a backup plan, starting with the option to play baseball at San Diego State.
“I always kind of knew in the back of my mind that I was going to do baseball,” said Gretzky, in town this week with the Boise Hawks for a five-game series against the Spokane Indians.
Gretzky’s family has a summer place in Coeur d’Alene and is expected to be in attendance at Avista Stadium.
Wayne, who captured nine Hart trophies as the National Hockey League’s Most Valuable Player and is the league’s all-time points leader, grew up in Ontario as a Detroit Tigers fan.
Wayne led the Edmonton Oilers to four Stanley Cup championships before he was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988. He and his wife, actress Janet Jones, raised their kids in what Trevor called a “normal upbringing.”
For Californians, that meant outdoor sports.
“I grew up in L.A. and all my buddies and all my friends were playing baseball,” Trevor said. “There’s not much hockey in L.A. … I get out (on the ice) and mess around a little bit, play goalie.”
The Chicago Cubs selected Trevor in the seventh round of the 2011 draft. He passed up his college scholarship and signed, but missed one year of baseball to have surgery on his shoulder. He hit .304 in 35 games last summer in the Arizona Rookie League.
“I learned a lot down there,” Gretzky said. “Pro ball is a big step. Just being there for a full year really helped me.”
The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Gretzky was drafted as a first baseman, but he’s played left field in his two games with the Hawks during the young Northwest League season.
“Wherever they put me, it doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “Just wherever I can help the team.”
All four of his siblings are athletic, including older brother Ty, who was named after Ty Cobb and played hockey for one season at Shattuck-St. Mary’s (Minn.) Prep School, which produced Sidney Crosby.
Younger brother Tristan, 12, is a baseball player in the making, Trevor said.
Trevor said he was a little kid like Tristan when he set what remains his top goal: win a World Series.
“It worked out that I could play baseball and I’m privileged to be in the Cubs’ organization,” Trevor said.