LIMA – Jared Gaynor had been easing into the coaching side of life.
When he wasn’t pitching in the professional independent leagues, he was coaching at the high school or college level in his offseason.
Then, came the day last December in which he was working out and heard a “pop” in his pitching left elbow.
He knew immediately it wasn’t good.
Around the time he was scheduled to have Tommy John elbow surgery, he received a call from Locos general manager/owner Steve Meyer.
Meyer asked Gaynor if he was interested in coming to Lima to coach the Locos.
At the time, the 25-year-old Gaynor was the pitching coach and conditioning coach at Arizona Christian University (NAIA school in Phoenix). He also just finished pitching in his fourth year of pro ball in the independent leagues.
“A week after I found out I needed surgery, I got a call from Steve Meyer about the Lima Locos,” Gaynor said. “I had never heard of the Locos before. I mean I played college baseball and I played in summer leagues, but you don’t know every team in the country.
“I knew in the future I wanted to be a head coach. When I got this call from Steve, it was a no-brainer.’’
Meyer’s connection to Gaynor was former Defiance/Ball State/Cubs’ minor league pitcher Luke Hagerty, who runs a training gym for baseball players in Phoenix.
“I had started training with him (Hagerty) and worked at his gym, as well,” Gaynor said. “Luke’s been a great help to me and a great mentor.”
Meyer said, “He comes from a good background, with pro ball for four years. He carries himself really well and I think he’s going to come into his own as a head coach. He’s been around baseball his whole life. I think he’s going to be another great Locos coach.’’
Gaynor grew up in Cave Creek, Arizona, just outside of Phoenix.
He grew up playing most sports with his two older brothers.
By high school, he began focusing on baseball.
“Once I got to high school, I fully committed to baseball and baseball was all I did,” Gaynor said.
Gaynor went to a small high school, Scottsdale Christian Academy, with only 300 students.
In spite of the small school, he was fortunate to have former major league pitcher Bill Swift as his high school baseball coach.
Swift pitched 13 years in the majors (1985-98) for Seattle, San Francisco and Colorado. He went 94-78 with a career ERA of 3.95.
For the Giants in 1993, Swift went 21-8 with a 2.82.
“He (Swift) really taught me everything I know about pitching,” Gaynor said. “He really developed me into the pitcher I became. I owe him a lot of credit in a lot of the things I’m doing now.”
Being a left-hander, who didn’t overpower batters, Gaynor quickly learned how to hit his spots and throw his off-speed pitches for strikes.
Before pitching four years on the independent professional circuit, Gaynor pitched two years (2011, 2012) at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix.
From there, he pitched two years (2013, 2014) at George Mason.
As a senior, he had a 1.67 ERA. He was named to the Atlantic 10 all-conference team and the all-tournament team.
“I had a great time there and got to play in a regional,” Gaynor said. “Those were some of the best times of my life as a player.”
When he wasn’t selected in the Major League Baseball draft, Gaynor went the route of playing professional ball in the independent leagues.
In his four years of pro ball, he played for the Wichita Wingnuts (2014), the Grand Prairie Dogs (2014), the Lincoln Salt Dogs (2015), the East Side Diamond Hoppers (2016) and the West Side Woolly Mammoths (2017).
In the second half of 2017, he pitched for the champion York Revolution in the prestigious Atlantic League.
During the offseason of his pro career, he began coaching.
He started as an assistant coach at Coronado High School, in Scottsdale. In his second year, he took over as the team’s head coach.
“We were probably the worst baseball team in the state of Arizona,” he said. “But those kids were awesome. That’s where I really learned what coaching was all about.
‘’They weren’t talented by any means, but I really learned what it meant to be a coach. And sometimes being a good coach doesn’t necessarily mean that you win a lot of games. Obviously, it’s great. That’s the goal. But it’s the relationships you build with the people and the kids.’’
In the summer of 2016, Swift had become the head coach at Arizona Christian and was looking for a pitching coach. He called his old student Gaynor.
Gaynor has now been Swift’s pitching coach at ACU for two years.
In his first week with the Locos, he was ready to kick the season off.
“I’m all for development,” Gaynor said. … “This is kind of the best of both worlds. I love coaching and I love training people. So now I get to do both in a situation where I get to work with kids from all over the country, and even outside the country. It’s a really cool situation. There’s nothing like it.’’
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