3/20/2006 – Daily News Record
Daily News Record Written by Mike Barber Jon Gaston played his formative baseball in Harrisonburg before moving away. He’s now at the University of Arizona and will be back in town for the VBL season this summer. You’ll excuse him if he sounds like a country song, but Jon Gaston has been everywhere, man. He was born in Bellflower, Calif. He played his Little League ball in Harrisonburg, then moved to Idaho with his family for high school. He was drafted by the San Francisco Giants, but opted to play for the University of Arizona. Now, baseball has brought him back to Harrisonburg. Gaston has signed to play for the Turks this summer. "I kind of requested it, that I would," Gaston said of his summer assignment in the NCAA-sanctioned Valley League. "They made that happen. I’m really excited because I’m going to go home to one of my hometowns. I’ll see friends I haven’t seen in six years." Gaston, 19, and his family lived in Harrisonburg for three years. He left after eighth grade, moving to Boise, Idaho, for high school. "He’s a complete stud," Turks manager and owner Bob Wease said. Gaston played for Borah High School in Boise, helping the team capture back-to-back state titles his junior and senior years. The 5-foot-11, 206-pounder was picked in the 20th round – 612 overall – by the Giants in the 2005 draft. He was lying in bed when he got the phone call telling him he had been selected. "That was exciting," said Gaston. But Gaston said he knew all along he wanted to play college ball. He had planned to enroll at Yavapai Junior College, but then Arizona called with a scholarship offer. Gaston got off to a big start for the Wildcats, homering on the first pitch he saw as a collegian. He hit a pinch-hit solo home run in the eighth inning of Arizona’s season opener. With the Turks, Gaston will be reunited with former Harrisonburg High School standout Nate Kline. Kline, who is a freshman at Rider University in New Jersey, will play first, third and designated hitter for the Turks this summer. Kline and Gaston were Little League, AAU and junior-varsity teammates. "He hit the ball real well," Kline said by phone from Alabama, where his Rider baseball team was playing in a tournament. "And I understand he’s twice the size he was back then. He’s a player." Three other Arizona Wildcats will play for Wease this summer. Catcher Matt Denker and pitcher Matt Baugh both played for the Turks last year and plan to return. They’ll be joined by Gaston and pitcher Ryan Perry. Gaston will likely bat cleanup and play left field for the Turks. In fact, Wease rattle off a projected starting lineup sitting in his office last week. "I can kind of almost pencil it in right now," Wease said. That’s highly unusual at this time of the year. In the past, a question about a lineup in March would elicit a response more like, "We’ll see when they get here." But Wease said he’s very familiar with a lot of the players on the 2006 roster. Nine played for him last season, including some of the team’s biggest stars. San Francisco outfielders Scott Cousins and Lucas DeLong are slated to come back, as is Troy first baseman Clint Robinson. Last year, Cousins and Robinson got off to torrid starts but suffered summer-ending injuries early on. Robinson broke a bone in his left hand on June 23. He played just 16 of the Turks’ 44 games, batting .349 with 20 RBIs. Cousins was hitting .362 on July 12 when he broke the index finger on his left hand. Wease knows that, with all three of those bats and Gaston in the middle of the lineup, he could have the one of the most potent offenses in the VBL. He also knows that Cousins, DeLong and Robinson are all potential professional baseball draft picks this year and could leave the Turks after two or three weeks if they’re selected. Harrisonburg opens the season June 2 at Staunton Major League Baseball’s draft is June 6-7.