Jarrett Gardner’s name litters the Saltdogs’ record book. The righty from Oklahoma pitched for the Saltdogs from 2006-2009 and strung together four of the best starting pitching seasons in franchise history. Then, he followed his playing career up with a three-year stint as the club’s pitching coach. Gardner holds career records for shutouts (5), innings pitched (429.1) and strikeouts (281). He also owns the franchise’s only no-hitter.
Here are the highlights from our chat with Jarrett Gardner:
What did you enjoy about the city of Lincoln and Haymarket Park?
The relationships I formed with the past players, coaches (Tim Johnson, Marty Scott, Chris Miyake) , and front office staff (Jim Abel, Charlie Meyer, Tim Utrup, Bret Beer, Toby Antonson, Anne Ducheck).
Do you have a favorite memory with a teammate or teammates from your time with the Saltdogs?
Oh let’s see if I can put this into PG-13 terminology! The “Rollercoaster” flight to Corpus Christi with Mark Roberts leading the “Tick, Tick, Tick” has to be up there. Also the INFAMOUS bus ride from Sioux City to Wichita that had fellow rookies Tycen PoVey and Jake Jadlowski forwarding Van Arkel’s texts to the rest of the bus at 3:00 am will go down the most epic road experience of pro ball.
What was your favorite ballpark in the league?
The old St. Paul Saints ballpark was unique. If you never experienced the atmosphere, it was second to none. The stadium was old and rusty. The bleachers and clubhouse was falling apart. But the overall experience is a mixture of a carnival, bingo night, WWE, and baseball all wrapped into one night. It was ALWAYS entertaining even for the opposing teams and players.
Which other team in the league did you dislike the most? Why?
They weren’t in the league when I played, but they were when I coached so I would have to say Gary Railcats. The “style” of baseball that they play is more conducive of college baseball with the small ball approach of bunts and hit and runs. It works obviously because they have won championships, but it isn’t exactly developing players to reach the Big Leagues.
What did you learn from your time with the Saltdogs?
My experience was probably a little different than past players because I had the luxury of staying on as a pitching coach after I retired. I really was able to learn the business side of baseball and how things worked behind closed doors that explained why certain transactions were being made and whether or not the moves made sense financially AND team-wise.
What game or moment in a game stands out the most to you?
Game 7 of the 2009 Championship Series. We had a grueling back and forth series against Pensacola and both teams were running on empty. The final out that Brandon Jones made secured our win and gave me the only championship I was ever apart of in pro ball for 11 years.
What is your favorite moment from your entire baseball career?
June 25, 2009. Some of you remember that as the date that Michael Jackson passed away. It is also the date I threw the only no-hitter in Saltdogs history against the El Paso Diablos. Not many players have ever accomplished that feat in professional baseball and I treasure that memory daily.
What do you view as your best accomplishment in baseball?
I was blessed to have a very good career with the Red Sox, Padres, and Saltdogs so trying to sort through records, All-Star games, and MVP’s wouldn’t do my career justice. The single accolade that I’m the most fond of is the no-hitter. My teammates played great for me that game and I didn’t really have my best stuff (I was actually sick and under the weather), but Shawn McGill and I were on the same page most of the night and my teammates made some outstanding plays to allow me to finish it off.
Where do you currently live and what do you do professionally?
I currently reside in Moore, OK. I own my own indoor training facility, Extra Effort, as well as Backspin Tee. My brother Taylor and I invented this tee in 2015 and it has since won awards (ABCA Best of Show, Edison Award) and has become the most followed batting product in the world with more followers on Facebook, Instragram, and Twitter than any other product.
What advice do you have for a young person interested in baseball?
Well it depends on which area of the game you want to be involved in. If you are a player, then talent and hard work will take you so far, but in the end TIMING will be the most crucial. How will my head coach view my tools? Will the college coach see you at your best? Will the pro scout remember your performance? Then it will be up to you as a player to stay in the lineup and out work everyone else.
If you are interested in the business side of the game, I have been to MANY conventions and job fares (MLB Winter Meetings, ESPY’s, ABCA, NFCA, Edison Awards, Saber Seminar…look these up!) where I have spoken to multiple GM’s, Vice Presidents, and Managers that are always looking to hire qualified individuals that have a passion for the game. There are opportunities EVERYWHERE in this game, so it will be up to you to seek out what makes you happy.