Dallas, TX – The silhouette of an old baseball stadium is visible as you approach Dallas from Interstate 20, and immediately it’s clear that’s where Sterling Heights high school once stood. A long-time power in Texas high school sports, Sterling Heights boasted some of the state’s best collegiate prospects year after year in dozens of sports. However, as rough financial times hit the area in 2015, the school was forced to announce they’d be shutting down following the 2016 school year.
Entering the school parking lot, the school is desolate and poorly kept up. Graffiti covers the brick structure nearly from head to toe, and the grass has grown so long it’s hard to believe anyone once played baseball here. Approaching from the north side of the school is an older gentleman, and he introduces himself as Julio Garcia, the man I’m here to meet. Garcia was the Sterling Heights baseball coach for decades before the school closed down, eventually finding a job out in Chula Vista, CA coaching their high school baseball team when Sterling Heights shut down. I’m here to ask Garcia about a player he only coached for one season: Dave Gill. The current Cal Poly outfielder is a former first round pick out of high school, and is likely to be a first round pick again in June.
“He was the most talented 14-year-old baseball player I ever coached or coached against,” Garcia says. “And he was one hell of an athlete. He made varsity football and basketball as a freshman. That was unheard of here at Sterling Heights.”
As a 14-year-old freshman, Gill hit .346/.404/.488 and he stole 23 bases in just 50 games. He was the team’s best player, and would’ve been a great building block for the next great Sterling Heights dynasty. Instead, after his breakout performance, every elite private high school in the country wanted Gill. Some schools that were recruiting him weren’t keen on him playing multiple sports, but Cathedral Catholic HS in Raleigh, North Carolina was more than willing to let Gill play as many sports as he wanted. The baseball coach was Brian Rupp, who remains the coach today. He encouraged Gil to play multiple sports “because you’re the best damn athlete in the country” and that was music to Dave’s ears.
In the fall, as a sophomore receiver at Cathedral Catholic, Gill burst onto the recruiting scene with big play after big play. His game film stood out enough to earn him an invite to one of the nation’s top recruiting camps, as well as the nickname “Gigolo” because he juked people out of their pants. While at the camp, Gill ran an eye-popping 4.41 40 yard dash as a 15-year-old. Rivals and other top recruiting services instantly had David Gill ranked as a 4* recruit with immense potential.
Despite all of his football success, Gill was most excited for the baseball season to start. Gill’s sophomore numbers were very similar to his freshman totals, as he hit .333/.389/.481 and stole 26 bases in 29 tries. Scouts were impressed that he didn’t seem to miss a beat despite being forced to move to a new state early in his high school career.
“I knew he’d excel at Cathedral Catholic,” Garcia continues as we make our way through the long grass into the abandoned dugouts. “His work ethic was second to none.”
Despite all of Gill’s athletic prowess, he didn’t like being the center of attention. He was much happier just blending into the background, but that was never going to happen with his kind of talent.
“He’s not a vocal leader,” Rupp tells me over the phone. “He doesn’t see any benefit in getting in someone’s face. He just goes about his business and outworks everyone else. He’s the epitome of someone who leads by example. And in all my years, I never coached someone who wanted to win more than Gigolo. He had to win at everything.”
Despite being a four star football recruit and a solid division 2 basketball prospect, Gigolo decided to focus exclusively on baseball prior to his junior season. The goal was to put together two dominant years before being a top 10 pick in the 2019 CBL draft.
Gill’s junior season was cut short due to injury, as he played in just 20 games and struggled a bit, hitting just .282/.341/.397. Scouts were a bit worried that his power hadn’t seemed to develop despite Gil clearly growing and filling out. By the end of his junior season, Gill was 6’1, 180 lbs. He should have had more power for someone with his size. Scouts loved his makeup, and both his book smarts and baseball intelligence were off the charts. Even without the power developing, Gill was receiving interest from all over the country.
“I’d moved from Texas to North Carolina fairly easily,” Gill emailed to me. “I figured I could go anywhere in the country and succeed, I just needed the right situation.”
The scholarship offers began pouring in following a senior season in which Gill hit .333/.404/.463 and added 27 steals.
“I really wasn’t looking at schools very seriously,” Gill continues. “I was projected to go in the first round, and I wanted to sign.”
Despite Gill’s attitude toward college, he was a great student at Cathedral Catholic, finishing in the top 10 of his class. His teachers praised him as “altruistic”, which is basically a fancy way of saying he was thoughtful of others and not greedy at all.
On the night of the draft, Gill’s name was called 14th overall. He was going to be playing for the Vallejo Admirals. Unfortunately, Gill failed to sign by the deadline as Vallejo never made a serious push to sign him. Gill had to scramble to find a school that would give him the opportunity to play every day, as most of the other elite programs had moved onto other targets when Gil informed them he was going to sign with the CBL.
With only a few days to decide where he wanted to go, Gigolo received a phone call from manager Max Gray who was recently hired by Cal Poly University. Gray told Gil how he wanted him to come build up his program, and he promised he’d do everything he could to make him an even better draft prospect while he was in school. Gigolo took an instant liking to Gray, and committed after two days of non-stop phone calls back and forth between the two.
As an 18-year-old freshman, Gill was unstoppable. He hit .371/.421/.474 in 50 games, and he was 27 of 28 on stolen bases. Gill’s breakout season and Gray’s managing led the team to a 32-18 record, a conference championship and a birth to the NCAA Tournament.
As a sophomore, Gill’s breakout continued for the season’s first 3 weeks. Through 22 games, Gill was hitting .411/.456/.568 with 12 steals. Sadly, that would be the end of Gill’s season–he would tear his ACL chasing down a fly ball late in game #22. Gill would miss the remainder of the season.
After a long and arduous rehab process, Gill was healthy in time for opening day of his junior season, the 2022 campaign. Gill’s speed was clearly back, as he was timed at 4.33 in the 40, destroying every Cal Poly receiver in a race that left the football team embarrassed. However, his offensive breakout seemed to disappear with the knee injury, as he hit just .318/.379/.417 in what many scouts expected to be his best season. He did steal 38 bases though, reassuring everyone his knee was healthy. Cal Poly won their conference for the third straight season.
As a senior, Gill continued to hit for a solid average with insane stolen base numbers and very little power. He played in 50 games this past season, hitting .335/.395/.443 with 34 steals. Cal Poly again won their conference, making Gill and Gray 4 time conference champions in their 4 years together. In his four seasons at Cal Poly, Gil hit .351/.406/.452, finishing with 221 hits in just 160 games. He was 111 for 134 on stolen bases, and while he doesn’t project as a great defender, he may improve with time and his elite speed will only help.
Rumors persist that Altoona is looking at Gill very hard at #2, and if they don’t pull the trigger he’s unlikely to fall outside of the top 10. Scouts around the league have called him the “safest” player in the draft, but he also possesses plenty of upside thanks to his great personality and insane athleticism. Here’s to hoping the young man signs this time.