If this is a dream, Jacob Gatewood pleads, don’t wake him up.
Here he is, a 17-year-old kid from Clovis, Calif., and strangers are following him into gas stations and asking for autographs. They want pictures. They want to shake hands. And, yes, they want to talk.
“What was it like meeting Miguel Cabrera? Did Torii Hunter really give you advice? Was that Mike Trout actually cheering for you?”
Funny, how life changes overnight when you make a guest appearance at the All-Star home-run derby, clout nine homers in the first round during commercial breaks, and become a Twitter sensation.
“I’m having people come up to me and say, ‘Congratulations,’ and I’ve never even seen in my life,” Gatewood says. “It’s crazy. All from the home-run derby.”
Gatewood, one of two high schoolers who earned a chance to participate in the home-run derby between rounds, put on a power-display that had the All-Star players cheering. Sure, he was using an aluminum bat, but he was hitting moon shots into the upper deck.
When he was done, and got all of his own pictures and autographs from dozens of All-Stars, he caught up with his parents and checked his cell phone.
He had 124 text messages. And 40 to 50 calls.
“I just deleted everything in my voice mail,” Gatewood says, laughing. “I didn’t have enough time to call everybody back. … It was unbelievable.
“It was the greatest day of my life.”
Gatewood, a possible No. 1 pick in the amateur draft next June, with a scholarship commitment from USC if he decides to go to school, says he still can’t believe the experience.
You try hanging out at Citi Field with the greatest players in baseball, taking pictures of your favorite stars, and now relegated to making your bed and taking out the trash at home as part of your chores.
“I didn’t know what to expect, I was so nervous,” Gatewood said. “I was telling my parents, ‘You forget they are human. You think they’re robots.’ “I mean, I couldn’t believe that [Detroit Tigers outfielder] Torii Hunter came up to me and talked to me, telling me, ‘Remember to stay humble. Treat people the way I would want to be treated.’ I’ll never forget that.
“I got to met Miguel Cabrera, the best hitter the game, and he actually told me, ‘You were hitting bombs.’ It can’t get cooler than that. And I met [Colorado Rockies shortstop] Troy Tulowitzki. I’ve always kind of idolized him because he’s a tall shortstop, and so am I [6-5].
“And the guys were joking with me about [21-year-old Baltimore Orioles third baseman] Manny Machado. They said, ‘You probably went to school with him, you guys are that young.’
“It’s kind of weird to think that he’s just four years older than me, and he’s already an All-Star. I can’t imagine.”
Who knows if Gatewood indeed will live up to his promise. Projected by Sports Illustrated to be the No. 1 pick, could he be part of that next wave right behind Trout, Machado and Bryce Harper?
“Well, the one thing I know is that when I go back to high school and play games now,” Gatewood said, “there won’t be 50,000 people in the stands. So how can I ever feel pressure now? … Going back to school is going to be a little weird.”