(Jupiter, FL) Reporting to Spring Training with the St. Louis Cardinals is a homecoming of sorts for John Gant. The pitcher made his professional debut against the Cardinals on the back fields at Roger Dean Stadium in 2011 when he played in the Gulf Coast League for the New York Mets.
“It was raining pretty good and it was not a great outing,” recalls Gant, who earlier this week recognized what is now a practice field as the location. “I looked around said this is the one, this is the field right here.”
The 24-year old right-hander joined the Cardinals this off-season as part of the Jaime Garcia trade with Atlanta. Last season, he made his ML debut and appeared in 20 games for the Braves. His unique, toe-tapping delivery became something of a viral sensation.
“I just started doing it one day, wasn’t really kicking my leg up quite as a high,” explained Gant. “A catcher of mine was imitating me and kind of making fun of me, picking at me. I was like, ‘who are you doing there’ and he said ‘I’m making fun of you. I’m imitating you’. That’s kind of when I figured out that was doing it and I guess, maybe expanded a little bit from then. It’s a fluid motion, it feels comfortable to me and I like to do it–I don’t think it’s quite as weird as everybody else does.”
The delivery is legal as Gant keeps his foot on the rubber the entire time and comes to a full stop before pitching.
Gant also cleared up the naming of his “Vulcan” changeup, which he does indeed throw with his four fingers ala Mr. Spock.
“I do–I hold it that way,” he confirmed. “I don’t call it “The Vulcan”, I just call it a changeup. Some people started calling it that and I think it, I guess that’s just what people started calling it.”
Gant is comfortable to mix in the changeup anytime to go with his fastball and curveball. He is also comfortable coming out of the bullpen or the rotation–having made 88 starts in 107 professional games.
“I’ve always considered myself a starter,” Gant admits. “That being said, I want to make the team, so I’ll do anything really. But I think I’m a true starter from that sense. I feel comfortable in that role.”
Exactly what role he could have with the Cardinals hasn’t been determined and even with more innings becoming available due to the Alex Reyes injury, Gant isn’t getting caught up in any potential competition.
“I just go out and do my best every time–I’m not really looking at ‘Oh, I’ve got to do better than this guy’. I just go out and play baseball to the best of my ability.”
Away from the field, the Savannah, Georgia native likes to fish and play ping pong.
“I usually in the off-season, I’ll have a TV show that I’m watching on Netflix or something that I get pretty hooked on,” Gant shared. “Justified–it was on Amazon Prime. A show about a U.S. Marshal. Kind of old school guy. If people acted up, he just shot them right there on the spot, no messing around.”
And although he grew up a Braves fan and then pitched in their organization, John Gant is happy to be exactly where he’s at now.
“This is a class-A organization, you can tell right off the bat,” he said. “First day spending time in here, it’s very obvious. I’m proud to be here. Proud to be wearing the Cardinals jersey.”
photo credit: STLBaseballWeekly.com