WVU's Gyorko is close to touching his dream


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Evenness defines Jedd Gyorko.

It is in his powerful right-handed swing.

In his overall approach.

Trickles right down to the way he carries on a conversation.

"It is just me, just the way I am, I guess," the West Virginia junior shortstop said in a calm, composed tone. "You can't be too up or too down when you play this game. You can go 0 for 4 and you have to remember that there's a chance that fifth at-bat could be to win a game. You have to be level-headed, take the ups and downs the same."

Truth is, there haven't been too many downs -- at least in an individual sense -- for Gyorko this season.

Because he's stayed away from those downs, the consensus is that Gyorko is on track to be selected in the late-first or second round of the upcoming Major League Baseball first-year player draft, which begins Monday.

He has one year of eligibility remaining in Morgantown, but that will go by the wayside because, as he said, "it has always been my dream to play professionally. I'm going to go and play for a living after this year."

Those around him understand Gyorko, a Morgantown native who hit .381 with 57 RBIs and 19 home runs this season, became one of these top-of-the-line prospects probably more with diligence than he did with God-given capabilities.

MLB Draft 2010

A look at players and stories that figure prominently for the Pirates and the area in this week's draft:

Thursday: More room for Pomeranz?

Friday: Texas pitcher makes his name

Saturday: Machado compared to Rodriguez

Today: Pitt's Joe Leonard of Connellsville and WVU's Jedd Gyorko.

Monday: The Pirates' approach to the draft.

Monday


Event: Round 1 of Major League Baseball first-year player draft.

When: 7 p.m.

TV: MLB Network.

Of note: The Washington Nationals have the first pick and are expected to take Bryce Harper. The Pirates pick No. 2.


Since the time he was about 5, his father Randall and former West Virginia player Jerry Mahoney, who works in operations at the university and helps coach the local American Legion team, would put Gyorko through instructional sessions.

When the weather was cold, they would utilize Mahoney's access to the university's indoor facility, the WVU Shell Building, and go at it in there.

As Gyorko -- whose older brother, Scott, played linebacker at West Virginia -- got older, the workouts grew more rigorous. Jedd Gyorko never wavered.

From the time he was small, Gyorko was almost always the best player in the games he played, but it was those workouts he looked forward to just as much.

"I have to say that Jedd has worn me out more than any other kid, in a good way though," said Mahoney, 55. "I throw a lot of batting practice to kids around here, and he's the one who, even to this day, can never get enough. You throw him batting practice for a half-hour, he wants to take it for an hour. You throw him 100 pitches, he wants a 100 more. And when he's done hitting, he wants to talk about it and break down his swing."

Gyorko understands the time he put in in the past is why he has a future in baseball.

"I remember being little, even in the winter, and waking up Saturday and Sunday and I couldn't wait to go workout and go hit," Gyorko said. "If I didn't put all that time in, there's no way I'd be where I am now. There's no way we'd be talking about this."

This, to be certain, is the cusp of an opportunity.

But there are questions about what position will he play professionally. In the Cape Cod League last summer with the Brewster Whitecaps, he played some second base and is insistent he is comfortable there. While he played shortstop for the Mountaineers, he said he can play third as well.

"People like my bat," Gyorko said. "I'm just looking for the chance. Where I play [on defense] isn't a big concern for me. I'm just ready for this chance to live a dream and it will all work out."

That statement is vintage Gyorko.

"His ability to handle things when they aren't going well, or things that are out of his control, is probably better than any player I have seen coming up, even back to when he was really little," Mahoney said. "A lot of kids get discouraged if they get out, or something doesn't work out for them. With Jedd, he just always never let it bother him and used it as motivation to get better. That's what he's always been about."


Colin Dunlap: cdunlap@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1459.


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