Eleven days ago at Turner Field, his good work done, Atlanta Braves rookie relief pitcher Cory Gearrin was asked how he intended to spend his free Sunday evening in the Big Peach.
Said the former Rhea County High School star with a sheepish grin, “I’m going to Buckhead Church in about an hour. They have a 6 o’clock service for everyone who can’t get there Sunday morning. Then I’m going home and do about five loads of laundry because I’ve run out of anything to wear.”
Hey, Braves. The 1940s just called. They want their side-armed role model back.
OK, so Geri and Tim Gearrin’s 25-year-old son is too good to be true, even if he did give up six runs to the Phillies in one-third of an inning last weekend. But he’s also held opponents scoreless in 11 of his 16 total appearances since first being called up in late April.
Beyond that, his earned run average was a highly respectable 3.38 until his Philly flop shot it up to 6.61. When you’re a one-inning or less reliever, one bad inning can definitely spoil a whole bunch of work.
Still, even his mother admits, “Cory’s not a 100-miles-per-hour guy. He’s probably going to be sent up and down some. That’s the nature of that business.”
He’s gone up and down twice now to Triple-A Gwinnett. He could go down and up again.
“They can send me down all they want,” said Gearrin last week. “I’m happy to do whatever they think helps the team. As I’ve said before, if I never get back here again, I’m having the time of my life.”
On the Friday night of April 29 that Cory played his first home game, Geri and Tim were in the Turner Field stands when the bullpen door swung open along the outfield wall and their son ran to the mound to face the heart of St. Louis Cardinals batting order — Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman — arguably the most feared 3-4-5 trio in the National League.
“The first major league game Cory ever saw was at Turner Field,” Geri said. “I still have a picture of him looking back at me, the field in the background. Now he was about to pitch there. Every baseball moment of Cory’s life suddenly ran through my mind. When he was 5 years old. When he was 9 years old. When he was 11 years old.”
In true storybook fashion, Gearrin retired the Redbirds’ big three, though he lost the game an inning later.
“It’s still just so amazing to me,” said Geri. “I grew up watching Terry Pendleton play. Now I look out on the field and I see Cory and Terry chatting. That’s just unbelievable to me. We’ve just been so blessed to have this happen.”
Especially since no one thought this had a chance of happening throughout most of Gearrin’s prep career at Rhea County. Long and lanky with a respectable over-arm delivery, he was a good enough player to dream of playing collegiately, but not impressive enough to draw much interest.
“Cory wrote letters to every college he could think of,” said his mother. “Rick Robinson at Young Harris College was the only coach who wrote back.”
Actually, Robinson did a good deal more than write. He came to watch Gearrin play one afternoon when he was manning second base instead of pitching.
“Whenever Cory would go to make a double play when he was playing second, he would throw side-arm to first,” recalled Geri. “His father and I were always trying to change that. We wanted him to throw it the same way he pitched.”
Robinson thought differently. After the Golden Eagles’ game that day he approached young Gearrin with a request.
“Do you think you could pitch from that [side] angle?’ he asked.
Gearrin said he would try, which caused Robinson to say, “If you can master that over the summer I’ll give you a scholarship.”
The player did. The coach honored his word. Three years later, in the fourth round of the 2007 amateur draft, the Braves drafted Gearrin out of Mercer.
Said Geri Gearrin with a gentle laugh, “Sometimes parents don’t know best.”
Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...