When the White Sox selected Garvin Alston Jr. in the 2019 MLB Draft, they got a player who has been around the game for a long time even though his professional career was just getting started. Alston Jr. was not your typical MLB Draft prospect. His father, Garvin Alston, spent many years as a pitching coach for various organizations. While most kids would spend their free time hanging out with friends or playing video games, Alston Jr. had the opportunity to spend his time at the diamond and in the clubhouse with his dad whenever he was able to.
Garvin Alston Sr. is a well-known and well-respected pitching coach around the MLB. He spent time in the Athletics, Diamondbacks, and Twins organizations where he held various positions like pitching coach, bullpen coach, minor league pitching coordinator, and minor league rehab coordinator. Growing up in a baseball family can be a blessing or a curse for kids who are considering pursuing that same sport. Luckily for Alston Jr., it was much more of a blessing.
Sometimes being around the same game for so long can drive someone away from it, but that was not the case with Garvin Alston Jr., and his dad never forced him into playing the sport. "Growing up my dad never pushed baseball on me. It wasn't until my junior year of high school where he sat me down and said, 'if you want to do this pitching stuff, I can help you with doing more than just the basic stuff of baseball.'"
In that same year, Garvin Alston Jr. decided to transition into a pitcher as he took his conversation with his dad very seriously. That's when his dad became his pitching coach and they started working together whenever they had time. "We would go to the field, play catch, and start taking things a little more seriously," Alston Jr. said. "He would bring me out to the bullpen and have me watch guys throw instead of just being a bat boy. It was definitely an easy and fun transition with him becoming my pitching coach."
Getting Started in the Grand Canyon State
Garvin Alston Jr. attended Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix, AZ where he was a star athlete playing baseball, basketball, and football. Although baseball was his chosen path eventually, football was the first sport that he truly loved. "Football was my first love. Just the mental side of it, getting hit and getting back up was something I enjoyed," Alston Jr. said in a phone interview with FutureSox. "I was the starting quarterback at Mountain Pointe High School, and I had a blast."
While high school football is very popular throughout the United States, Alston Jr. didn't shy away from talking about how popular high school baseball was not just at Mountain Pointe, but across much of Arizona. "Baseball was always Mountain Pointe's number one thing with guys like Cole Tucker, Scott Kingery, and all of the other local guys that have come out of this Chandler, Ahwatukee, and Phoenix area."
Going into further detail, Alston Jr. continued to list off more guys like Cody Bellinger and CJ Cron who were local Arizona players that he grew up watching. His current AZL teammate and 2019 draft class member, Jakob Goldfarb, also comes from the Arizona prep baseball pipeline. This state has produced some very impressive names over the last few years with Garvin Alston Jr. being one of the more recent ones.
While all these players went their separate ways after heading off to college or to play professionally, Garvin Alston Jr. remains close with Tucker. The two of them have maintained a close friendship even though they are no longer sharing the same diamond and dugout like they did as teammates at Mountain Pointe. "I stay in touch with Cole Tucker. He's always been like a big brother to me. When I made that transition to start pitching my junior year, he was my shortstop and I felt comfortable with him back there."
Tucker, who made his MLB Debut this year, still finds time to check in on his former teammate and has given him words of encouragement while Alston Jr. is in the early stages of his professional career. "We text and wish each other luck. He tells me to keep doing what I'm doing, so it's sort of like a big family environment that goes on between me and Cole."
It's safe to say that the decision to become a pitcher would pay off for Alston Jr. He ended his high school career gaining interest from local schools like the University of Arizona and Arizona State University that wanted the left-hander to join their pitching staff. Upon completion of his prep career and despite being drafted by the White Sox in the 37th round of the 2015 MLB Draft, Garvin Alston Jr. decided that he wanted to spend the next step of his career at Arizona State University to play for head coach Tracy Smith and the Sun Devils.
From Arizona to Aiken
Making the jump from high school to college baseball can be tough for a lot of players, especially for someone who just started seriously pitching two years prior to moving up to the collegiate level. This transition was hard for Alston Jr., who struggled to find consistent playing time in two seasons at ASU and was not having as much success as he hoped to. Despite his collegiate career getting off to a rough start, Derek Beasley, the pitching coach at USC Aiken liked what he saw in Garvin Alston Jr. and knew he could help him reach his goals.
"He [Beasley] sat me down and said, 'if you want it, you can come out here. I'm going to get you right and were going to win some games. I'm going to get you to where you need to be for teams to look at you and were going to have some success.'" The two of them, along with the rest of the USC Aiken squad did just that. "That man worked the entire pitching staff hard. We were runner up conference champions two years in a row, and he instilled in us the work ethic and the drive to keep going," Alston Jr. said when talking about the impact Beasley had on his career.
Garvin Alston Jr. was transferring from a major, Pac-12 university to a Division II school. Not to mention, this was the first time he moved away from his family and the friends that he made during his time in Arizona. While he was spending time at his second university, Alston Jr. still maintained his focus on getting drafted and becoming a professional baseball player, thanks to the help of his new pitching coach. "I re-found my love for baseball after ASU. I just kind of re-found myself and revamped my pitching delivery. It made it easy being out there in South Carolina."
After finding his love for the game again, Alston Jr. started seeing success on the diamond. In 2018, which was his first year with USC Aiken, Alston Jr. pitched primarily out of the bullpen. In 17 appearances, he posted a 4.30 ERA with 26 strikeouts and 22 walks in 23.0 IP. The following year, Garvin Alston Jr. would be featured mainly as a starter, where he would ramp up his innings pitched on the year and still put together a strong season. In 2019, Alston Jr. had a 4.63 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 53 walks in 15 starts and 70.0 IP.
After two years at USC Aiken, Garvin Alston Jr. would soon realize that Derek Beasley was a man of his word. After an impressive final two seasons of college ball, Alston Jr. would once again hear his name called in the MLB Draft. Ironically, it would be a feeling that was eerily similar to the one he had in 2015.
Same Team, Same Round, Same Dream All Over Again
Getting drafted by an MLB organization is a lifelong dream for many players who make it that far. However, it's extremely rare to see a player get drafted twice by the same team and in the same exact round. This is something that happened to Garvin Alston Jr. Out of high school, the White Sox selected him in the 37th round of the 2015 MLB Draft. Fast forward four years later and Alston Jr. was once again drafted by the White Sox in the 37th round of the 2019 MLB Draft.
"It just shows the trust and the love that the White Sox have in me, picking me twice and four years apart. I laugh and it's funny to me, but I'm happy to be with the White Sox." He spent both draft days with his family where they sat around the TV, waiting for the moment where they would see Garvin Alston Jr. appear on the screen. Garvin's dad got a kick out of the situation the second time around, stating "did we just walk around in a full circle? Because this is the same team and the same layout, it's just four years later."
The day someone gets drafted is always one of the biggest milestones in their life. However, being drafted by the same team twice has to make that feeling much sweeter. "Everybody that talked to me previously the first time I got drafted contacted me again. It was a very welcoming and almost homey feeling coming back to the White Sox," Alston Jr. said when talking about what the experience was like the second time around. And so far, it seems like the White Sox made the right choice by selecting him again as Alston Jr. has had a very impressive start to his professional career.
Garvin Alston Jr. has spent his first professional season as a member of the AZL White Sox bullpen. He previously had relief pitching experience at ASU and USC Aiken, but it's been over a year since he was last used primarily as a relief pitcher. The transition, however, has been painless for him so far. "It's been a real smooth transition. I think the only difference from being in the bullpen and the starting role is just your routine." Alston Jr. would go on to talk about how he focuses more on how his body responds throughout the week while he's playing catch and doing other light throwing drills.
This year, Alston Jr. has been one of the most consistent and dominant bullpen arms for the AZL White Sox. He's been used in some high leverage situations and has rose to the occasion. Currently, he has a 3.00 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP with 22 strikeouts and just four walks in 18.0 IP for the Arizona affiliate. When discussing what he thinks he's done well so far as a pro, the first thing he mentioned was handling the mental aspect of the game. "I flip a switch when I'm in the bullpen and before I even step up on the mound. I say to myself, 'ASU doesn't matter, Aiken doesn't matter, my dad doesn't matter, it's about me getting three outs and going from there.'"
Another thing that Garvin Alston Jr. says he's done well is pound hitters with fastballs. Right now, his arsenal consists of a fastball and a curveball, but he mentioned that he's willing to work on developing a third pitch (specifically a slider or a splitter) and he also wants to work on being able to throw his curveball at any time and in any count for a called or swinging strike. He's been able to get his walk numbers down so far as a pro and has flashed good control of his arsenal. If he can continue to demonstrate that control and develop an additional pitch, then Garvin Alston Jr. could find himself on track to a very successful career at any level he's playing in.
When asked about his own personal goals for this year and beyond, Garvin Alston Jr. mentioned that he's a team first guy and is willing to do whatever he can to help the team at all times. "I just try to stay within my moment and to keep doing the best that I can. If I'm doing something right, helping us win, punching guys out, or whatever the case is, then the team has a better chance at success. That's just my goal for this year and moving forward." Alston Jr. admits that even though he's currently playing in rookie ball, he wishes the team could put together more wins and hopes to have a strong finish to the season.
While he's still in the early stages of his professional career, Garvin Alston Jr. is off to a great start as he looks to put the bloodlines aside and carve out a name for himself within the White Sox organization. So far, it looks like the organization made the right choice with their decision to select him twice. They trust his arm and Alston Jr. is showing early signs of why he earned that trust by being so reliable out of the bullpen. The 2019 season is quickly coming to an end, but this is a name that White Sox fans should keep an eye on for now and beyond this season.