St. Paul Saints Anthony Gallas Proves the Battle Can Be Fun
If one thinks about it, baseball is the ultimate sport in terms of the one-on-one battle. While a team game, it is that battle between pitcher and batter that makes it a truly unique sport. It is like having a goalie face a breakaway 30 times a night or a cornerback defending passes to the same wide receiver 35 times a game.
This is part of what makes the sport so popular with players. Not only do pitchers get to enjoy the feeling of trying to outduel a hitter every time one steps to the plate, but the hitter knows that he has just a few opportunities every game to prove that he is the better man. It is what makes this sport truly special.
While some men wither under the mono-y-mono mentality of the sport, others find it truly exhilarating. They love this kind of competition knowing every pitch is an opportunity to look like a hero or a goat. It is that one-on-battle that turns each at-bat into an all-out war, turning some men into epic heroes and others into goats.
To succeed in baseball, one must take on a warrior mentality. One where you must have the supreme confidence that you can win every time you go to the plate, and to set aside past failures, only using them as lessons to learn from but not moments on which to dwell. This is the mentality that one must have and it is the very reason why St. Paul Saints outfielder Anthony Gallas has become one of the most feared hitters in the American Association.
A Man Born to Play Ball
Born in Strongsville, OH, Anthony Gallas became a huge fan of his hometown Cleveland teams. In fact, he spent many nights after the Cleveland Cavaliers won their city its first title in over 60-years by rewatching the final minutes of Game 7 of the NBA finals.
“It’s like a great bedtime story. It was a great thing for the city and Lebron. Great for his legacy. Just put the statue up right now. He did everything that you can do. It was so much better that it was the hometown guy. I get choked up when I start watching video about it. It was great.”
From an early age, Anthony found himself attracted to the playing field as well. He found that baseball was the perfect place to just be a kid and also saw that there were great life lessons to glean from the sport.
“I think the best thing about baseball is when you’re a kid you’re just playing it because it’s fun and you’re just being a kid. I think the older that you get the interesting thing about baseball is that it teaches you a lot about life. There’s ups and downs. Every day is different and so you just have to stay in that moment. Because no matter what you do tonight that has no bearing on tomorrow. It’s a new challenge every day and it teaches you discipline.”
While loving baseball, football was his primary love. He starred in both sports all throughout high school career, earning three varsity letters in both baseball and football, and was the Pioneer Conference Player of the Year in both his junior and senior baseball seasons. He was a star in both sports, but truly felt that if he was going to be successful that he had to focus solely on baseball.
“I was having good success in football as well in high school, I just didn’t think I could translate that to the next level. I was too small to play linebacker and a little too slow to play in the secondary. I was kind of like an in-between guy. With baseball I felt like I could become a professional.”
To pursue those aims, Anthony enrolled at Kent State, where he proved to be a dominating offensive force for the Golden Flashes. In 2007, his freshman season with the team, he hit .332 in 57-games, and led the Golden Flashes in runs scored (44), walks, batting average, on-base percentage (.421), and slugging percentage (.550). he also clubbed 10-home runs and drove in 46, both second on the squad.
This was just the start of a brilliant career at the school. Anthony would continue to improve and become one of the most dominating players in the MAC. He graduated from Kent State in 2010, leaving behind an impressive resume on the school’s all-time list of hitting achievements. That included fifth in hits all-time (302), third in runs-scored (209), sixth in doubles (60), second in total bases (513), and he is the school’s leaders in career walks (135).
As his time at the school went by, Anthony realized that he had a shot to play professional baseball, but he also knew that he had to take the right steps to make that dream a reality. It was time to take his life to another level of maturity if this were to occur.
“It took me a long path to get there, figuring out how to work and how to be an adult, and I knew that held me back for a couple of years. Finally, in my senior year, I really started to figure things out; that this could be my job. If I put everything into this I could do well. You know, I wanted to do it all, school, social life, and baseball, but it is baseball that has to be the focus if you want to be a pro.”
Ready for Prove Himself at the Next Level
Despite the fact that he had been so productive at Kent State, Anthony Gallas found that his name was not called on draft day. That did not deter his hometown Cleveland Indians from taking a chance on the outfielder, and he was signed and sent to the club’s rookie league team. The 2010 season he split time between there and Mahoning Valley in the New York-Penn League. Combined, he hit .272 in 54-games with 26-RBI, and a .401 slugging percentage.
That began a rapid ascent up the Indians organization. After starting the 2011 season at Mid-A Lake County, Anthony reached AA-Akron by season’s end and hit a combined.263 with 8-homers and 42-RBI. The next season, he began in High-A Carolina but appeared in 6-games for AAA-Columbus.
In 2015, he finally got a real shot, starting at Akron and finishing the season at Columbus. Combined, he hit 17-homers and drove in 55-runs, and looked like he was ready to move even higher, but a shoulder injury sidelined his progress. The next season, the Indians rushed him back too early, not allowing Anthony Gallas to properly rehabilitate his injury and he struggled in the four-games he appeared in. That led to his release.
Knowing he had the skills to still be a Major Leaguer one day, the outfielder joined the Kansas City T-Bones in the American Association. Then Manager John Massarelli called Gallas “a dangerous hitter who just needed to get healthy to prove how good he can be.” Anthony appeared in 91-games, hitting just .221, but his 16-homers and 48-RBI showed that the swing was coming back and that the shoulder was healing.
Prior to this season, the St. Paul Saints acquired Gallas from Kansas City. Manager George Tsamis saw the addition of the slugger as a huge asset that was a no-brainer to pencil into his lineup each day.
“He has a big bat that will be perfect in the middle of this lineup. We saw how dangerous he was last season and, with him being healthy now, I can only imagine how good he will be this year.”
So far this season, Gallas has hit .333 in 6-games with 7-RBI. He has not hit a home run yet, but his RBI total is second on the team and he was a one-man wrecking crew against his former team on May 27, driving in five. He also has a .391 on-base percentage and his OPS is .915, leaving a big impression on his new team.
Ready to Battle with Each At-Bat
Gallas is a name that traces its roots to both Italy and the Netherlands. The name means “brave soldier” and, in a sport where the one-on-one battle is at the very core of the game, this is an ideal name for a player who relishes that challenge.
“You just got to trust yourself ultimately. Know that you can be better than that guy. You have to know that if he makes a mistake and puts it in my zone, I’m going to crush it. I don’t care what he throws. I have to approach this thinking that he can’t beat me. If you go up without conviction, you are going to fail. It will get you out of your game. This is the part I love. I may not always be the better man, but I go up there thinking I am. If not, I have no chance.”
It is not just about the mental approach that makes Anthony Gallas such a dangerous hitter. He is willing to put in the work that takes a player to the next level in his game. Not only willing, but actually relishing the hard work that it takes to be a professional ballplayer.
“The funnest part of baseball for me is the grind, the work. It’s doing the stuff that you have to do to get to this point so you can just have fun.”
He has also had great success because he has been willing to learn from those around him. He has taken advantage of the opportunity to learn information from those who have had great success and failure in the game, so that he can glean information from the lessons that they have learned.
“I’ll follow different coaches here and there. I just like following guys that have success. I think some of the things that they talk about is contagious, it’s a different way to compartmentalize to get a new perspective and I think when you start reading and seeing these things and start believing you can do that, too, then you start to have greater success.”
Of all of those coaches, there is one who really stands out above the rest. The one who Anthony credits with steering his career in the right direction. “I think one guy that really helped me is Alan Zinnert, who’s the hitting coach for the Padres. He really had an impact on me in 2014. That’s when I really started believing that I was the real deal. It was all him.”
However, Anthony is quick to point out that all the coaches in his baseball career have had a profound impact on turning him into the player that he is today. “I’ve had different coaches, my high school coach was a great, my college coach was great, and I’ve taken great things from each of them. My college coach taught me a lot about discipline and playing great defense. He was a great practice coach. My high school coach was all about the power of thinking positive. So, you take it from here and there.”
While learning a great deal from coaches, Anthony has also had to be introspective to provide himself with some lessons. It is easy to take advice from others but, in baseball, if you are not able to learn from your own failures, then you are not going to survive in the sport. This is something that Anthony Gallas understands as well as anyone.
“One of the most important things I have had to learn over the years is to be yourself. Relax and trust yourself. You can’t care about what anybody else thinks. I worked hard all those years, but you’re always trying to do things for other people. You’re trying to do things every day to impress them. When you do that, you are going to struggle.”
The Most Important Lesson of All
At the age of 29, Anthony Gallas is far from over the hill. His .333 average early this season proves that he still has the touch at the plate and, if last season was any indication, he will likely only get better as the campaign goes along. That is what you expect out of a warrior.
However, this warrior is introspective about what baseball has truly meant to him. He loves the one-on-one battle, but it is his comrades that have made the sport truly special to him. It is a sentiment that a soldier made a lot clearer to him.
“I heard some older guy talking at the airport. He was talking to this young kid who was asking him something about the military. He told him you don’t miss the military, you miss the people. So, at the end of the day when all of this is gone, you don’t remember that ball you hit for a homerun; you remember the guys that celebrated with you. It’s the interactions that are the things that you’re going to miss.”
Anthony Gallas may approach every at-bat with the mentality of a warrior, however, he has come to appreciate the most important lesson that any warrior learns. A battle is only won when all the soldiers in a unit work collectively to achieve the same goal. With this group of warriors battling for each other like they do each night, it is easy to see that Anthony Gallas will help lead the St. Paul Saints to an American Association title. What a great way for this warrior to help the team celebrate their 25th anniversary.
By Robert Pannier
Member of the IBWAA