Cards pick Gil follows dad's path to pro ball

Third rounder's father, Benji, won World Series with Angels in 2002

June 7th, 2018

Mateo Gil woke up around 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday -- 30 minutes before Day 2 of the 2018 MLB Draft started. He was up late after an emotional first night, when he and his family thought he could be picked.
Then, with the 95th overall pick in the Draft, the St. Louis Cardinals selected the Keller Timber Creek (Texas) High School shortstop.
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"It was like a tornado going through my house with my parents talking to my agents. It was crazy and it happened so fast," Gil said. "After I got picked, it felt like everything was just done, like finally it was all over with."
Gil comes from a baseball family. His parents, Carly and Benji, met on a blind date. Carly sang the national anthem at a Rangers game while Benji was playing for Texas. Benji spent his eight big league seasons with the Rangers and Angels, winning a World Series championship with Anaheim in 2002. And while Benji was away from home playing ball, three-year-old Gil sat in right field during tee ball, picking flowers.
"I was honestly never really interested in baseball at that age, when he was still in Major leagues," Mateo said. "I wasn't into the game at all."
After Benji's professional career in the MLB was finished, he played and eventually coached the Tomateros de Culican in the Mexican Pacific League. For the first six or seven years of Gil's life, Benji was away.
"I think when kids are little, [baseball life] takes away their dad, and who wants to do that? So he was gone a lot of the time and it left Mateo to learn a lot of it himself," Carly said.
Benji said Carly picked up the slack in raising their two children, Mateo and Gehrig, for the years he was mostly away for. In the meantime, Mateo was manufacturing his own path in baseball.

When Mateo was seven, he joined a youth coach-pitch team, where he first began dominating the competition.
"I thought I was doing better than all the other guys, and that I was going to be a Hall of Famer, because coach-pitch was so easy," Mateo said.
And what better way is there to learn the professional game than from a pro himself? When Mateo was 7 years old, his father was able to be home more. Being able to learn baseball from his father gave him an advantage few others had. Carly said she always knew Mateo would be a pro ballplayer, because there was no Plan B, and at around age 12, Gil and Benji saw it was a feasible goal, too.
"I really thought I had a chance around that age, when I started playing with older kids, and I can do things the other kids can't without much effort," Mateo said.
Having Benji in his corner was crucial, but Mateo didn't always recognize it as such.
"I really didn't even think of him as a baseball player, just as my dad. He took a managing job down in Mexico, and that's when my eyes really opened up, because all these players are listening to what he has to say," Mateo said. "Maybe I was little bit stubborn, because he was my dad."

Mateo has always been a standout player. In his senior year at Timber Creek, he batted .380/.474/.758 with seven home runs, 44 RBIs and 22 stolen bases. He's had a plethora of instructors, including his hard-working mother, who made constant sacrifices to raise him and Gehrig, and his father, who got to pass on his pro-ball wisdom.
"A lot of people say and know that it's a game of adjustments, and I've tried to explain what those are along the way," Benji said. "Sometimes it's hard for a young player that doesn't struggle often, because they play competition where [their own] talent surpasses the competition. There will be struggles and difficulties through your career. It's going to happen, and learning to make adjustments quickly will help the slumps not last as long."
That's just one lesson Mateo will take with him on his professional journey to the Cardinals.