A Harnett Central grad provides insight on his skyrocketing pitching career after being selected by the New York Mets in this year's MLB draft.
Preparing for Major League Baseball rookie camp, Paul Gervase remembers when he was a spindly 6-foot-7 slinger at Harnett Central just four years ago.
He’s sprouted an additional 3 inches, stuffed 10 MPH more on his fastball and is coming off a breakout campaign at Louisiana State University.
But the Fuquay-Varina native, who didn’t hold any top baseball scholarships coming out of Central in 2018, credits a psychological shift for his rapid ascension up the MLB prospect rankings, ultimately landing a spot with the New York Mets organization on July 19.
“I honestly believe for me, it was my mentality. Every time I went out there on the mound ... I said to myself, ‘This guy can not hit me. You will not hit me and I’m gonna dominate,’” Gervase said during a recent phone interview with The Daily Record.
“So I just used that as fuel and I was fired up, just went after hitters and trusted that I was better.”
The mental motivation translated into a standout spring in which the Tigers closer led LSU with a 1.85 ERA and six saves. He boasted a 4-1 record, piled on 52 strikeouts and gave up just eight earned runs through 39 innings of work.
Last month’s MLB draft didn’t present as many opportunities as the former Trojans star had anticipated and the redshirt junior contemplated returning to LSU following the conclusion of Day 2.
But Day 3 saw Mets representatives call with a deal more within range the 6-10, 230-pound prospect was advised to take.
“I decided it was time. This has been a dream since I was a little kid and I was really excited to accomplish it,” Gervase said of the 12th-round selection.
“Of course, I’ll always appreciate all the great memories and awesome times I had at LSU.”
The former Pfeiffer University pitcher added that the recent accomplishments were a distant dream following his subpar freshman season in Misenheimer.
During the summer of 2019, however, Gervase fully committed to getting better.
Ten hill sprints each day and night. Retooling his pitching mechanics with Raleigh-based physical therapist Brandon Young.
The enhanced workout regime took his arm talent to another dimension, cranking up a mid-80s fastball to low 90s in just under three months. Gervase transferred to Wake Tech Community College that fall, then eventually played the 2021 season at Pitt Community College.
It was in Winterville where things “just clicked,” as the honorable mention JUCO All-American allowed just 11 hits and recorded a 1.66 ERA, gaining attention from the likes of major Division I programs like LSU.
Now, Gervase is attempting to raise his game again, this time with the support of baseball’s most respected minds.
“All the guys that I’m working with at the Mets, they believe in me and they said they’re willing to do whatever it takes to help me get to the big leagues,” he said.
“So I just got to keep working hard and do my part, and I know it’ll take care of itself.”
The coveted relief arm added that he’s trying to develop his off-speed pitches, most notably the slider and changeup, during his time at the Mets’ strength and training complex in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
This week he’ll compete in the Florida Complex League alongside fellow MLB rookies as he becomes the latest Harnett County representative to be drafted, joining Trent Fennell (Colorado Rockies) and Tanner Myatt (New York Yankees), who were both selected in 2018.
As Gervase stares down another goal, making a minor league roster by year’s end, his testimony provides a unique blueprint for the county’s newest wave of talent.
“It is what you make … It’s all about not being complacent,” he said. “Unfortunately in high school, I was complacent. But thankfully, it wasn’t too late for me to start working.
I just think guys need to know that they’re not just gonna get in on talent alone. ... Harnett County baseball has always been pretty good, but I’m looking forward to it being great.”
Donnell Coley can be reached at email@example.com or 910-230-2040.