PRESCOTT- 20-year-old pitcher Ken Giles arrived on the campus of Yavapai College in the fall of 2010 with a talented arm, but an issue throwing strikes. Seven years later, Giles is suiting up as the closer of the American League Champion Houston Astros looking to bring the Astros’ their first World Series title in franchise history. A portion of Giles’ success can be attributed to the time he spent wearing the green and gold in Prescott.
“I saw a sophomore in college that had been released by the New Mexico Junior College looking for a place to play, believing he had the ability to be good, but maybe lacking the confidence to totally believe in himself,” Yavapai College Roughrider pitching coach Jerry Dawson said in a phone interview. “Hard work pays off for some people and I’m so thankful it did for him.”
According to TheBaseballCube.com, Giles walked 18 batters in 11.1 innings during his freshman year at New Mexico Junior College. Dawson and the coaching staff at Yavapai College knew the former high school outfielder had a fantastic arm, it was just a matter of finding the strike zone.
“As soon as you see the arm, you feel there is something special,” Dawson said. “The scouts obviously made us aware that they thought there was something special, it was just a matter of whether he could harness it…it wasn’t somebody hitting him, it was a matter of eliminating the walks.”
After topping out in triple digits a couple of times in fall ball and increasing his strike proficiency, Giles was sent home over Christmas break with a plan of simplifying mechanics and continued repetitions.
“A lot of kids go home and we give throwing programs, reps, and they come back and you can tell they didn’t do it,” Dawson said. “With him, there was no question that he had done it and done it religiously.”
“When he came back after Christmas, he was pretty consistently (throwing) 60% strikes,” Dawson continued.
During the spring, Giles broke out to a 1.13 ERA and struck-out 67 batters over 38 innings.
In the following June Amateur Draft, the Philadelphia Phillies drafted Giles in the 7th round. Three years later, Giles was pitching in the big leagues after shooting up through the minors.
In two years pitching for the Phillies, Giles posted a 1.56 ERA in 115.2 innings, striking out 151 batters and walking only 36.
Following a trade to the Houston Astros during the 2015 offseason, Giles continued his success and is now the Houston closer with 34 saves and a 2.30 ERA in 63 games during the 2017 season. His team now takes on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series after beating the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series.
“He’s been such a good person, he’s stayed in contact…he didn’t forget his roots,” Dawson said. “You want to see the good people have good things happen to them and he is definitely one of the good people.”
Giles is just one of the 18 players who attended Yavapai College to reach the majors. The success of players from the school serves as a tool for future and current players.
“Having that kind of success will hopefully help us with recruiting, hopefully, it helps motivate the young men we have here,” Dawson said. “Everybody that has ever played the game would like to be right where he is at right now.”
“We’re proud of what we do, we try to instill work ethic and character and Ken (Giles) is the perfect example of that,” Dawson continued.
Giles’ Houston Astros play the Los Angeles Dodgers in game one of the World Series at 5 pm on Tuesday, October 24th, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. All of the World Series games are televised on FOX.
World Series Schedule:
Game 1: Tuesday, October 24, Astros @ Dodgers 5:09 PM
Game 2: Wednesday, October 25, Astros @ Dodgers, 5:09 PM
Game 3: Friday, October 27, Dodgers @ Astros, 5:09 PM
Game 4: Saturday, October 28, Dodgers @ Astros, 5:09 PM
Game 5: Sunday, October 29, Dodgers @ Astros, 5:16 PM*
Game 6: Tuesday, October 31, Astros @ Dodgers, 5:09 PM*
Game 7: Wednesday, November 1, Astros @ Dodgers, 5:10 PM*