Son of Eagles executive drafted by the Phillies

Posted: June 13, 2014

TOMMY GAMBLE had to change coasts for his senior year in high school, going from the San Francisco suburb of Pleasanton, Calif., to Moorestown, when his dad, Tom Gamble, left the 49ers to become the Eagles' vice president of player personnel. This would not be optimal for anyone's senior year, especially when you combine it with hernia surgery last fall from a football injury. It would be even less optimal for a guy trying to establish himself as a baseball prospect.

Gamble, a lean, speedy centerfielder this season for Moorestown High, made the transition well enough to get drafted by the Phillies last weekend, albeit in the 35th round. His plan is to play at Monmouth this fall, and hold off on trying to make it as a pro until he has more experience. The Phils will have his rights until July 15.

"I wasn't expecting it. It was kind of a good surprise. I had an idea it could possibly happen; I wasn't expecting anything," Gamble, grandson of late former Eagles president Harry Gamble, said this week. "When I got the call, it was pretty awesome."

Joey Davis, the Phils' area supervisor for Northern California, knew the most about Gamble, but through much of his high school career out there, he was recovering from one football injury or another, Davis said.

"We knew about the athleticism, but he was pretty much a football player out here. I got to see him play during the summer a couple years back, then I worked with, gave him some hitting lessons in the offseason, when I could," Davis said."He was a running back. I think he tried to run over everybody. I think the switch to baseball was a good move.

"He's a plus runner. He ran a 4.1 from home to first; major league average is 4.15. Speed's probably his No. 1 asset, along with his strength and his toughness."

Tommy's preference would have been to be scouted by his dad and the other football guys he's been around his whole life.

"I've always been a football guy. I love to play, but it banged me up," he said. "I didn't really have a full [baseball] season since my freshman year. It's been good I got established and stayed healthy, put everything behind me and just went out and played. I'm kind of thankful for how everything's worked out, so far."

Tom Gamble said Tommy, as the oldest, had the toughest transition of his three sons when the family had to move.

"It's unusual, the whole thing," Tom Gamble said. "But he's an interesting developmental prospect. He's 6-foot, 185 to 190. He just needs some time, needs some at-bats, needs to kinda hone his skills when it's all said and done."

Monmouth coach Dean Ehehalt said he thinks he's signed a player with tremendous upside.

"When he moved here, we had gotten a couple of calls from guys on the West Coast to check him out. He started with surgery in the fall, so he got started a little late.

"He's just starting to concentrate solely on baseball. He's extremely athletic. He doesn't have a lot of innings in him, per se, but he's got all of the makings to be an outstanding player. Good speed, instinctive, he's got great acceleration."

Tom Gamble was a pitcher for Haddonfield High and High Point (N.C.) University, but never a pro prospect, he said.

"I was a righthander who probably threw 82 mph - never a candidate, never [had] the upside for those kinds of things," he said.

After spending his adult life in football scouting - including an earlier Eagles stint, during which Tommy was born, with the family living in Cherry Hill - Tom Gamble found getting a glimpse of the baseball scouting process interesting.

"No different than our business, right? You're looking for guys who can run, guys who are athletic, guys who are wired right, guys who grew up right, guys who are tough," Gamble said. "Obviously, different skills when it breaks down, but the critical factors [are the same]. We're looking for the right mindset, the right wiring."

Tommy had a chance to prove he had the right mindset when he had to move to Moorestown and fit in with a group of teammates who'd been playing with and against one another most of their lives.

"I kind of saw it more as a new opportunity. Going back to family. Playing in a different spot - I'll play anywhere, as long as I'm playing," he said. "I just kind of established a spot and worked hard and just enjoyed a pretty good season."

The baseball was quite different, though.

"Out there, they're working all year-round," he said. "Here it's just tough to get outside, especially with the winter we had."

He found refuge in famed South Jersey coach Joe Barth Jr.'s indoor hitting facility, and in being around his extended family. Harry Gamble, who had traveled to youth tournaments around the country to watch his grandson play, died in January.

"I miss him every day," Tommy said. "He was a great man."

He said that there was no real pressure coming from an athletic family, that his father's advice was always the same:

"Go out and have fun and play."


On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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