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Gilman grad Gavin Sheets 'better prepared' as he's drafted on same day as super regional loss

Gilman grad Gavin Sheets 'better prepared' as he's drafted on same day as super regional loss
Wake Forest first baseman Gavin Sheets (24) is congratulated by the third base coach as he heads for home to score during the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament against Georgia Tech in Louisville, Ky., on May 25, 2017. (Timothy D. Easley / AP)

Former Gilman baseball star Gavin Sheets woke up Monday morning with a chance to live out two dreams on the same day.

His Wake Forest team was set to play Florida for a chance to reach the College World Series and Sheets was expected to be chosen in the first two rounds of the Major League Baseball draft.

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"It was just a lot of excitement," he said. "To be able to have the opportunity to win a trip to Omaha and get drafted the same day was one that not many get to experience."

It turned out to be a bittersweet night. The Demon Deacons won the resumption of the rain-delayed second game of the best-of-three NCAA super regional against the Gators to set up a climactic final game. But the first trip by a Wake Forest team to Omaha since 1955 was not to be.

Sheets and his teammates suffered a disappointing 3-0 loss, which will always be paired in his memory with the night that he was chosen by the Chicago White Sox in the second round of the nationally televised amateur draft.

"It was just a super exciting day," Sheets said during the bus ride back to school Tuesday afternoon. "I was trying to keep in touch with my advisor and my dad and trying to get that stuff lined up for later. But the main focus was winning two games and getting to Omaha and whatever happened, happened after that with the draft. Unfortunately, it didn't work out in the second game against Florida, but to be taken 49th by the White Sox was a great ending to the day."

Of course, it was anything but an ending. Sheets, whose father Larry was drafted in the second round by the Orioles in 1978 and coaches baseball at Gilman, is a highly rated first base power prospect who might have gone late in the first round to the Toronto Blue Jays if the deal had made sense.

He was originally a 37th-round pick out of Gilman by the Atlanta Braves in 2014, but chose to go to college and spent the past three years developing his power stroke. His numbers improved each season and he was named a third-team All-American by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball after batting .317 this season with 21 home runs and 84 RBIs in 63 games.

"A lot of power, a lot of walks, little strikeouts; that's kind of the whole goal to it," White Sox scouting director Nick Hostetler told reporters Monday night. "Gavin was an interesting guy for us. He's a guy we identified early on as a guy we wanted to target. After we made the pick of Jake Burger [at No. 11 overall], we actively pursued Gavin right away. He was an instant target. We made the phone call right after and were able to get him back down to us at 49."

Larry Sheets, who played for the Orioles from 1984-89, was at home Monday night both watching the Wake Forest-Florida game and monitoring the draft through periodic phone conversations with the advisor.

"It was a very emotional day," he said, "with Wake losing to Florida and the next step and the next door opening up. We'll see what that has in store."

Though both Gavin and his father were picked in the second round of the draft, Larry signed out of high school with the Orioles. He feels that Gavin's decision to bypass the draft the first time provided the best chance to succeed at the professional level.

"He's so much better prepared, physically and mentally, by being able to go to college for three years," the elder Sheets said. "We had this [draft] opportunity out of high school, but not nearly at this level. After coming through the program there with coach [Tom] Walter, he's just mentally prepared.

"He's played against the best players in the country, obviously in the ACC, and going to Florida this year and playing — you're playing against the best pitchers. For that part of it, he is very prepared. I'm not sure that anybody is really prepared for the actual minor league experience. One thing I do know, his love for the game … he's got that and that's the only way you make it through that next level."

It also doesn't hurt to grow up close to the major leagues as many children of big league players have proven. Perhaps it's even more important to have that shoulder to lean on during those uncertain times in the minor leagues.

"It's huge," Gavin said. "Obviously, I haven't gone through it so I don't have that experience, but to have him with me to get an idea and not be surprised by what happens. I can go to him and talk to him about different scenarios and situations that I'm in and having his knowledge after going through it will be big for me. He's been through it all and to have him at the touch of a button will be very beneficial to me."

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Except for the final game of his college career, everything has worked out pretty much as planned.

"From day one, it's been my dream since I was a little kid to play professional baseball and follow the path my father took," he said. "To get this opportunity is an unbelievable feeling."

A handful of other players with Baltimore-area and local ties were selected on the second day of the draft.

Notre Dame right-hander Peter Solomon, a Mount Saint Joseph grad, was selected by the Houston Astros in the fourth round. Maryland shortstop Kevin Smith was drafted by the Blue Jays later in the fourth round.

Mount Olive left-hander Bruce Zimmermann, a Loyola Blakefield alum who previously attended Towson University, was taken by the Atlanta Braves in the fifth round.

Maryland right-hander Brian Shaffer, a North Harford graduate, went to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the sixth round.

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Baltimore Sun reporter Jon Meoli contributed to this article.

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