In former Virginia standout Phil Gosselin’s first full minor league season, he’s trying to lay a foundation that will help send him toward the majors. A second baseman in the Atlanta Braves organization at high-Class A Lynchburg, he plans on being known for more than homering off Stephen Strasburg in the 2009 NCAA tournament.
Gosselin, a fifth-round pick in 2010, is sixth in the Carolina League with five triples and tied for sixth with 23 doubles. He’s hitting .272 with a .332 on-base percentage and .416 slugging percentage in 334 at-bats.
“You’ve got to work really hard to stay locked in every day,” Gosselin said this week when his Hillcats visited Potomac. “That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned here in my first full season.”
Two years ago, Gosselin helped Virginia make it to the College World Series for the first time in the program’s history. He was one of a school-record nine players taken in last year’s draft. Seven of them signed professional contracts, but the 2011 Cavaliers repeated the 2009 team’s feat and won one more game in Omaha.
With Lynchburg about an hour’s drive from Charlottesville, Gosselin was able to see Virginia win its regional final against East Carolina hours after the Hillcats finished a game.
“It was pretty cool to see all my old teammates doing so well,” Gosselin said. “It didn’t surprise me. They had great pitching. Obviously that was the backbone of the team, and there were so many guys last year we’d see them in practice how good they were. They didn’t play a lot because we had so much experience coming back, but all of us knew when they’d get the opportunity they’d do a great job.”
Facing the Cavaliers’ pitching staff, including 2011 No. 2 overall pick Danny Hultzen, was good preparation for the minors, and of course for going up against Strasburg. Gosselin’s blast helped send the San Diego State ace to the only loss of his final college season despite Strasburg’s 15 strikeouts.
“When it first happened it was kind of a big deal, but now it’s in the past,” Gosselin said. “It’s still something cool to look back on.”
Gosselin, a 22-year-old from West Chester, Pa., is more concerned with the present in the Carolina League, and he said his manager has provided an example of how to respect the game. Luis Salazar is back in the dugout despite having an eye removed after he was hit by a line drive in spring training. Tuesday, as is typical this season, Salazar was happily hitting balls to infielders in the pregame warmups at Pfitzner Stadium.
“It just shows how much baseball means to him when he’s able to bounce back so quickly from such a traumatic injury,” Gosselin said. “You can really tell how much he likes baseball, and you like to see that from your manager.”