Broadalbin-Perth High School graduate Gage makes his big league debut with Blue Jays

PHOTOGRAPHER:

Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher and Broadalbin-Perth High School graduate Matt Gage throws during the ninth inning of Monday’s game against the Kansas City Royals in Kansas City, Mo. The Blue Jays won 8-0. (Charlie Riedel/The Associated Press)

Having waited and worked for nearly nine years to reach the major leagues, it was sort of fitting that 2011 Broadalbin-Perth graduate Matt Gage had to wait just a little bit longer to make his debut.

After getting called up from the Toronto Blue Jays’ Triple-A affiliate Buffalo Bisons of the International League on Sunday, Gage made his first major league appearance with the Blue Jays on Monday at Kansas City.

“I got the call Sunday when we got back to Buffalo from Rochester,” Gage said. “I started scrambling to get packed and get ready. It was a great feeling though.”

His debut was one that was delayed for a couple of hours by rain, but when his opportunity finally came, Gage was flawless. He struck out two of the three hitters he faced in pitching a perfect ninth inning as the Blue Jays posted an 8-0 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

“I just tried to stay focused during the rain delay,” Gage said. “In the locker room, I played cards and tried to stay loose. When the game finally started, I just wanted to be ready in case my name was called.”

The call that Gage has long been waiting for finally came in the ninth inning.

“I got up in the fifth and warmed up a little bit, but then I sat back down until the ninth when my name was called,” Gage said. “I tried to keep focused, but it was pretty amazing. I just wanted to come in and do my job for the team. My first couple of pitches, I slipped on the pitching rubber. I told myself to calm down and throw strikes. After that, I was OK and things went pretty well.”

Gage was able to throw 13 of his 22 pitches for strikes in his debut.

“Once the game started rolling along, it was just another game,” Gage said. “It was nice to come into a situation where we were up eight and I just had to finish it out. It comes down to validating what I’ve done. I came in and did what I do.”

Despite the short notice, Gage’s wife, father, mother, brother, sister-in-law, father-in-law and agent all were in attendance Monday.

“When I got the call, everyone started scrambling and booking flights,” Gage said. “It was kind of crazy because it still wasn’t a sure thing that I would be activated, but everyone wanted to be there. Luckily, it all ended up working out.”

The same can be said for Gage’s long and winding road to the majors.

Gage, a left-handed pitcher who wears number 91, was a 10th-round draft pick by the San Francisco Giants in 2014.

The 29-year-old Gage has spent parts of nine professional seasons chasing his childhood dream. He most recently signed a minor league contract with an invite to spring training with Toronto on Nov. 29, and finally earned his long-awaited promotion to the majors following a stellar performance with the Buffalo Bisons. In 16 relief appearances this season, Gage has a 1.08 earned run average while going a perfect 7 for 7 in save opportunities. In 16.2 innings pitched, he allowed just 10 hits and only two earned runs, while walking five and registering 21 strikeouts.

“It’s a little different to be making your major league debut at my age. My path has been different, but it’s helped me become who I am,” Gage said. “I’m happy to be in the majors. I’m glad I was able to come in and do my job in my first appearance. I want to do what I can to help us win games.”

Gage has spent parts of eight seasons in affiliated baseball, pitching in the minor leagues for four different Major League Baseball organizations — the San Francisco Giants (2014-18), New York Mets (2018), Arizona Diamondbacks (2021) and Blue Jays (2022). In 165 career minor league appearances (95 starts), he has posted a collective 35-39 record with a 3.97 ERA and 493 strikeouts over 596 innings pitched.

Gage has also previously pitched for two seasons in independent baseball with Sugar Land (2018) and Eastern Reyes del Tigre (2020), two seasons in the Mexican Pacific Winter League with Venados de Mazatlan (2020-22), and one season in the Mexican League with Diablos Rojos del Mexico (2019) as part of his long road to the majors.

“It’s been a long road,” Gage said. “It comes down to all the support I’ve had along the way. I made the mechanical change from long arm to short arm and it worked out for me. My first pitch with my new motion was 94 miles per hour. I hadn’t been able to throw 94 in my life. I relied on hard work and dedication, and I was able to get an opportunity with the Blue Jays organization in Buffalo. I was able to take advantage of it.”

Gage, who played at Siena from 2012-14, is the fifth player in Siena baseball history to appear in a Major League Baseball game, and the first since John Lannan pitched for the New York Mets in 2014.

“Other guys that we’ve had make the majors have had a more direct route,” Siena baseball coach Tony Rossi said “Matt kind of bounced around a little bit, but he kept plugging along and he got there. We’re really happy for him.”

Gage became the fourth highest Major League Baseball draft pick in program history following his junior season when he established a then program single-season record with 90 strikeouts. A 2013 First Team All-MAAC selection as a sophomore, he was also named a Cape Cod League All-Star for the Chatham Anglers that summer. Gage capped his collegiate career by earning Fort Worth Regional All-Tournament Team honors in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, following a masterful 10-inning, 130-pitch performance in which he allowed just one run in a narrow 2-1 loss in 11 innings against host and 16th ranked TCU. He currently ranks third all-time in Siena history with 212 career strikeouts.

“To get to the majors, you’re competing against some of the best players in the country and from around the world,” Rossi said. “When he came to us, he was raw and had to work hard on his pitches. He put the work in and it’s paid off.”

His coach at Broadalbin-Perth, Dan Simonds, remains one of his biggest fans.

“He’s such a good person. I’m very proud of him and everyone in the community is very proud of him,” Simonds said. “He’s worked hard to get there, and to finally do it is amazing.”

Like many in the area, Simonds was among those watching Gage’s debut Monday night.

“It was a long night. I couldn’t fall asleep because I was afraid I would miss him pitching. He pitched great. What a journey,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming, and to see it come to fruition is almost more of a relief. The idea of him making it to the majors was that he probably was going to. It just took a little longer.”

For Simonds, seeing Gage finally play in the major leagues in front of his family was something he won’t soon forget.

“You like to see things happen for good people,” he said. “Matt and his family are such a collection of good people. I couldn’t be happier for them and for Matt to be able to have them there last night was great.”

Current Broadalbin-Perth baseball coach R.J. Pingitore was a teammate of Gage’s in high school and played in college at Southern Vermont College for Gage’s brother, Dave, who is now the head coach at Stevenson University in Owings Mills, Maryland.

“I’ve played with Matt my whole life. He’s one of my best friends and I’m so happy for him,” Pingitore said. “He deserves it because he and his family are great people and they have made a lot sacrifices the whole way.”

He said that Gage has talked about reaching the big leagues for a long time.

“When we were younger, Matt had a dream of playing in the majors and he wasn’t shy about walking about it,” Pingitore said. “He was focused, and he put in the work to get there. Obviously, playing as many places as he has along the way isn’t easy on his family or himself, but he stuck with it. Matt has always been positive, and he never gave up on his dream. When you’re bouncing around like he did in the minors, it can be hard, but he never lost sight of his goal.”

Like Simonds, Pingitore said he was thrilled for his former B-P teammate when he got the call to join the Blue Jays.

“He’s just a great person and it’s just great when things like this happen for good people He deserves it more than anyone I know. I’m happy for him and I’m happy for his family,” Pingitore said. “They’ve made sacrifices for years and years, and they’ve been present the whole way. I’m thrilled for them and we’re all proud of him.”

The support is something that Gage is appreciative of.

“It’s just awesome to have the support I’ve had. From my parents, to my friends, my coaches and the community. It’s just great to have that kind of support behind you,” he said. “There are a lot of ups-and-downs in this sport, but instead of telling me to give it up, everyone pushed me to keep going. It’s just validating to have finally reached the major leagues.”

By Paul Wager

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