“That experience, I’d never change it,” Garrett said. “If I could do it all over again, I’d do the same thing. The education I got, becoming a better student, a better person. College taught me how to grow up and be a man. I enjoyed New York and the fans. Everybody in New York was loving, and they accepted me.”
Garrett, a 6-foot-5 guard, played 55 games over the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons for St. John’s, averaging 6.2 points and 22.8 minutes per game. He was a valuable contributor at a major college program, impressive for someone who had not played basketball until high school. Garrett tried the sport after he quit baseball following the death of his grandfather Mack Wysinger.
“My grandfather passed away when I was in eighth grade, and he taught me how to play baseball,” Garrett said. “The thought of it made me miss him more. When I played basketball, it took my mind off it. It was a newfound love.”
Encouraged to pitch again by his father, Darryl, Garrett showed enough skill as a senior to earn his professional chance. But he did not turn full time to baseball until the summer of 2014, after he had transferred to California State University, Northridge, and sat out of basketball for a season. He never played for the Matadors because his baseball career bloomed.
Garrett made 27 starts for Class A Daytona in 2014, with a 3.65 E.R.A. In eight starts there the year before, his E.R.A. had been 6.88. He could feel himself making progress and did not want to stop.
“I turned into a pitcher,” Garrett said. “I knew how to hit my spots with any one of my pitches.”
Those pitches now include a fastball, a slider and a changeup he throws about 20 percent of the time — all let loose from an imposing frame. Garrett said his favorite pitcher has always been the Hall of Fame left-hander Randy Johnson, who is 6-10. Johnson might be an impossibly high standard for Garrett, but Lavin said he knew he was destined for baseball success.
Dusty Baker, a friend who was then the Reds’ manager, told Lavin that Garrett was not just an ordinary prospect, but the best in Cincinnati’s farm system.
“He was going to be great independent of whether he played Division I basketball or came to St. John’s,” said Lavin, now a broadcaster for the Pac-12 Network. “But I do think, in the evolution and maturation of his ability as a pitcher, it plays a part.”
Bryan Price, the Reds’ manager, has cited Garrett’s competitive streak as a major attribute, and Garrett said he honed it at St. John’s.
“Playing basketball, playing in the Big East, it helped me to be very competitive, to never back down from anybody,” Garrett said. “On the mound, it taught me how to have that tenacious attitude and relentless will to win.”
Garrett has won twice already, and in his one loss, he fanned 12 Baltimore Orioles in seven innings on Wednesday. He has left basketball behind, but is still no fun for opponents.
Diversity Grade: C-Plus
The unmistakable trend in front offices is that top jobs in baseball operations go to graduates of prestigious colleges in the Northeast. Competition is fierce for these positions, and almost invariably, the people who get them are bright, articulate and passionate for their work and often have college playing backgrounds. And they tend to be white men.
“A lot of clubs are in the same position: You don’t have to recruit,” said Dan Halem, the chief legal officer for Major League Baseball. “You just get all these résumés flowing into you through different sources, and each one’s better than the next. You end up hiring from that pool, because they’re all extraordinarily qualified.
“The problem is the pool itself may not be diverse. So the key is, in order to find diverse individuals who may have an interest, you actually have to go recruit them.”
In the latest report on racial and gender hiring practices in Major League Baseball, the University of Central Florida gave the league an overall grade of C-plus last week. The report, from the school’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, cited the fact that the league has just three minority managers — Dusty Baker of the Washington Nationals, Rick Renteria of the Chicago White Sox and Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers — and only four minorities with the title of president of baseball operations or general manager: Al Avila of the Detroit Tigers; Michael Hill of the Miami Marlins; Kenny Williams of the White Sox; and Farhan Zaidi of the Dodgers.
Baseball’s diversity pipeline program, to identify minority and female job candidates within the game, is in its second year. But one new wrinkle, in time, could be especially significant in finding more diverse candidates for baseball operations jobs.
The problem, baseball believes, is not in the colleges that typically funnel young executives to the game. Those colleges tend to have diverse student bodies, and M.L.B. wants to make sure it is finding the qualified candidates within them. To that end, Halem said, M.L.B. is creating a full-time position that will essentially be a scout for front-office talent.
“We’re going to hire a full-time recruiter to go out there to college campuses throughout the United States and try to recruit and sell diverse candidates on working in baseball,” Halem said. “Those who have an interest, we’re going to get their résumés and kind of run a job agency, internally, where clubs can have a pool of diverse candidates at the national level they can look at, rather than relying on word of mouth or the résumés they get.”
As for prospective managerial candidates, Halem said he was encouraged by the growing pool of minority coaches in the game. The U.C.F. report did give baseball an A-plus for diversity in those jobs, with coaches of color at 41 percent in the major leagues and at 45 percent in the minor leagues.
“Our coaching numbers are better,” Halem said. “So hopefully, that’s a positive sign in terms of bench coach and base coaches, which sometimes lead to managerial jobs.”
A ‘Tonight Show’ Lesson
Since the retirements of Derek Jeter, David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez, baseball has lacked superstars who cross over to mainstream pop culture. One who did last week was rather unlikely: pitcher Jose Quintana, who made his first All-Star team last year and who plays for the rebuilding Chicago White Sox.
But Quintana appeared Tuesday in a segment on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” teaching Spanish to the host on the plaza outside Rockefeller Center. Quintana, who is from Colombia, was a natural guest star, since he learned English by watching Fallon’s show.
“The show helped me, because his accent is easy for me to catch some words, and I can understand what he says during the shows,” Quintana told reporters at Yankee Stadium after his segment aired. “I used the subtitles, too, and that helped me a lot. It’s funny, because sometimes it can be a little too quick — sometimes when I watch movies, it can be a little hard to pick something up. But that show, it was easy.”
Quintana said he was nervous and excited to be on the show, but Fallon helped calm him down. The White Sox have fielded trade offers for Quintana, but for now they are happy to see him raise his profile.
“He’s trying to get outside the box, trying to make sure people see him as a well-rounded individual,” White Sox Manager Rick Renteria said. “Hopefully, he’s an example for everyone else, that they can get out there, relax and take advantage of some of the opportunities they’re going to be getting. I thought he did a nice job with it.”
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