Former Naval Academy pitcher lives baseball dream before serving in military
THE SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE | .
published: August 24, 2016
SAN DIEGO – It was a summer job, but one Luke Gillingham wanted to do well.
One of the most-decorated pitchers in the history of the Naval Academy, Gillingham was drafted in the 37th round by the Toronto Blue Jays in June. Knowing duty would call, the left-hander signed quickly and appeared in four games for Short Season-A Bluefield of the Appalachian League. The Coronado High alum was 1-0 with a save and a 2.79 ERA. In 9 2/3 innings, he allowed eight hits, walked three and struck out 11.
But he left the team in late July to fulfill his military obligation. An ensign in the surface warfare group, Gillingham was assigned to the USS Stockdale, a guided missile destroyer based in San Diego, which was coming off a 205-day deployment.
“The summer was such a great experience, and I’m so happy to have been given the opportunity to compete as a member of the Blue Jays organization,” Gillingham told the Naval Academy’s website. “Being a professional baseball player was a childhood dream. Bluefield and the Blue Jays organization allowed me to live it out this summer.
“While baseball is potentially on my radar, my first and most important goal is to be the best officer I can be for the United States Navy.”
In four years at the Naval Academy, Gillingham was 22-14 with a 2.40 ERA. In 296 innings, he had 308 strikeouts and was a two-time Patriot League Player of the Year and a two-time All-American.
James Hoyt (Palomar College) took a circuitous route to the big leagues.
Coming from Idaho, the right-hander spent three years at Palomar – redshirting his freshman season. While he wasn’t a star, he was a solid performer for the Comets. He went to Centenary College in Louisiana, where he spent two injury-plagued seasons and wasn’t drafted after graduating in 2010. He returned to San Diego, where he worked on the fishing docks and helped coach a high school team. He went to an open tryout for the now-defunct Yuma Scorpions, starting his professional odyssey.
From there he spent time with independent teams in Kansas and Texas and played winter ball in Mexico, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic before signing with the Atlanta Braves in 2013. He was traded to the Astros in 2014 and was 4-3 with a 1.62 ERA and 28 saves for Fresno in the Pacific Coast League.
He made his major league debut Aug. 3 and has appeared in seven games for the Astros with a 2.70 ERA over 62/3 innings.