Gallagher: From walk-on to Tribe 16th-rounder

June 15th, 2017

CLEVELAND -- Nick Gallagher did not see himself pitching in college. After high school ended, he planned on attending the University of Iowa and pursuing a role as a manager for the men's basketball team. That was it. In Gallagher's mind, that was just being realistic at the time.

He never imagined a moment like the one that arrived on Wednesday.

"Never in my wildest dreams," Gallagher said.

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In the 16th round of the MLB Draft, not long after Gallagher received a call from Indians area scout Steve Abney, the right-handed pitcher was selected by Cleveland. That plan he had four years ago did not exactly come to fruition. Instead of working as a manager for the basketball team, Gallagher went from a walk-on for Iowa's baseball team three years ago to the team's Friday night starter this past season.

As a junior in high school, Gallagher hit high 70s on the radar gun, but he always had a feel for a slider. A growth spurt before his senior year -- combined with an overhaul of his nutrition habits and workout regimen -- helped push his fastball in to the upper 80s. Iowa's head baseball coach, Rick Heller, kept an eye on Gallagher along the way, eventually offering the West High (Iowa City, Iowa) pitcher a shot at walking on.

"We called him in and said, 'Hey, this is what we'd like you to do,'" Heller said. "Thank goodness he took it. The first year was a really solid year for Nick. He ended up being our mid-week starter. He fought through a lot of things. I think any kid that comes in like that has to come to grips with the fact that they belong. That was really phase one in his development."

Early in Gallagher's collegiate career, Heller met with the young pitcher and his dad and had a heart to heart. He did not want Gallagher to be satisfied with being a Big Ten baseball player. The head coach's vision was not only for the righty to develop into a leader for his staff, but to continue pitching beyond college. Heller felt he saw the makings of a big leaguer, and he wanted Gallagher to believe it, too.

Gallagher went on to post a 2.18 ERA as a freshman and then backed that up with a 2.57 mark in his second season. This year, he went 8-2 with a 3.48 ERA with 87 strikeouts against 25 walks in 95 2/3 innings, sitting around 90-93 mph with his fastball. Gallagher featured a strong sinker-slider mix, with an emerging changeup.

The Indians were impressed by what the 6-foot-3, 200-pound pitcher had to offer, especially given his backstory.

"Those kids who are able to overcome adversity," said Brad Grant, the Indians' senior director of amateur scouting, "who have had challenges and have gone through hard work to try to overcome those, that's what we're trying to look for."

Gallagher never imagined a Division I college, let along a Major League team, would find that in him.

"This never even crossed my mind, to be honest," Gallagher said. "I'm really fortunate and I really appreciate the Indians organization to see something in me, and giving me this opportunity. I'm going to try to make the most of it, for sure."