When Tim Giel Jr. was bypassed in the Major League Baseball first-year player draft on June 6, his hopes of playing in the majors were starting to dim.
Giel, a resident of Gibsonia who attended Shady Side Academy, had just completed his senior year at Columbia University and was hoping to be drafted by one of the 32 major league franchises.
Despite the disappointment of not being drafted, Giel still held out hope. He had a workout with the Colorado Rockies last week and had another workout scheduled with the Washington Wild Things.
Then came a phone call he never expected.
"My mom came running into the room and said the New York Yankees were calling," Giel said. "It was a big surprise. The Yankees were the last team I expected to hear from. They had never contacted me. I don't even know how they got her [phone] number."
The Yankees wanted Giel to sign a free agent contract. He wasted no time accepting their offer.
"I couldn't believe it," said Giel. "I've been a big Yankees fan since I was a kid. I'm not really sure why I started rooting for them. I've followed the Yankees organization for years.
"I have Yankees hats, shirts and sweatshirts, so I have a good start to my Yankees wardrobe. I couldn't have asked for a better scenario."
Giel accepted the contract offer June 13 and flew to Tampa the following day.
"I have to take a physical and sign my contract," said Giel, who has two possible landing points. "They could keep me in Florida and have me play in the Gulf Coast League. The other option is the Staten Island League, a short-season league in New York."
Giel doesn't have a preference. He just wants a chance to keep alive his goal of playing in the majors.
"It's a big opportunity," Giel said. "It's a chance for me to work my way up through the organization. It's a challenge that I'm really looking forward to."
When asked who his favorite Yankees are, Giel picked the team's most beloved players: shortstop Derek Jeter and closer Mariano Rivera.
"Jeter and Rivera are the face of the organization," Giel said. "Both are a class act. Those are two players you can look up to and know they won't let you down."
Giel also pointed out that he has something in common with one of the most famous Yankees of all.
"Lou Gehrig went to Columbia," said Giel, who was a pitcher at Columbia. "I started as a freshman, was the closer my sophomore year, then moved back to starter for junior and senior years."
Giel concluded his career with his most impressive season. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound right-hander threw 642/3 innings, posting a 3.20 ERA and a 3-3 record. He also recorded 51 strikeouts, a career high. He completed three games and shut out Ivy League foes Brown and Penn.
"We had a great season," said Giel, when asked about his senior season. "We won the Ivy League title and earned a berth in the NCAA regionals at Cal State-Fullerton. We beat Arizona State in 13 innings in our second game. That was the school's first NCAA tournament win. What a way to go out."
Over the course of his four years with the Lions, Giel posted a 10-9 record and a 4.03 ERA in 190 innings. During the 2011 season, Giel came on and saved five games, setting the program record in the category.
"My fastball is one of my better pitches," Giel said. "I usually throw in the upper 80s and low 90s. I also throw a slider, curve and a change-up."
Giel spent the past two summers playing baseball in the Northwoods League and the Cape Cod League.
"Those leagues give college players a chance to play over the summer," Giel said. "The Yankees probably saw me playing in those leagues. It was a good experience because we took a lot of long bus trips. I know what to expect."
Giel recently graduated from Columbia with a bachelors degree in computer engineering.
"My dad has been one of my biggest supporters, but he insisted that I complete my education," said Giel, referring to Tim Giel Sr., the athletic director and wrestling coach at Avonworth High School. "My dream is to play in the majors, but I also know that very few realize that dream. He told me that I must have something to fall back on if I fall short of my dream."