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Twins draft ex-Falcon pitcher

June 13, 2011
By Nik Zirounis
Former Austintown Fitch standout pitcher Steve Gruver grew up a fan of the Cleveland Indians.

When the Tribe was playing the Twins on June 7, Gruver was watching the game like he would do on most nights. Although he still was rooting for the Cleveland club, a part of Gruver was following the Twins’ exploits. That is because earlier that day the left hander, who is currently a starting pitcher at Tennessee, was selected in the seventh round of the 2011 Major League Baseball draft by Minnesota.

“Watching the game Tuesday night was different,” said Gruver in a cell phone conversation. “I was an Indians fan growing up, but now I’m a Twin. They are a good organization.”

Gruver will officially be a Twins’ prospect when he signs his pro contract. The 6-foot, 1-inch college junior and his family were set to meet with the Twins’ area scout on Thursday, June 9 to discuss that deal. Gruver does have college eligibility remaining, but last week he had a good idea how his meeting with the Minnesota brass would turn out.

“I’m leaning toward signing,” he said honestly.

It took 237 picks before Gruver was put into a position to choose between one more year at Tennessee and a major league chance. Finally on the 238th pick, Minnesota made the call that the lefty was waiting to hear since he was slinging heat in Little League.

“We were watching the draft on the computer,” explained Gruver about the day of the draft. “When the Twins were picking my ears perked up because they had lots of interest in me.”

Not only were the Twins interested, but so was the group of Gruver’s family that was with Steve when the call came in.

“My family was all waiting with me,” Gruver said chuckling. “We weren’t sure how late I’d get pick. It makes it 10 times better to share (getting drafted) with family and friends.”

The matriarch of the Gruver family shared Steve’s sentiments, but admitted she was not as calm as her level-headed boy.

“It was nerve racking,” said Steve’s mom Sue after a post draft celebration at BW3 in Austintown. “Steve worked so hard for this day. We are so proud of his personality, proud of his academic achievement and proud of the person he is.”

Speaking of academics, Gruver was only the 10th Tennessee player to ever be chosen to the All-Academic team. He is a kinesiology major who carries a 3.78 grade point average and was selected to the Capital One Academic All-District 4 First Team. A lot of awards have been thrown Gruver’s way over the past few years, but none of them can match what he does in the classroom.

“It’s exciting to be on the All-Academic team,” said Gruver smartly. “Doing well in school helps me so much.”

Doing well on the diamond didn’t hurt Gruver either. He led the Volunteers with 14 starts and pitched 95 2/3 innings this season. He posted a 5-7 record and had a 3.95 ERA with 84 strikeouts as a junior. For his career, Gruver is 9-12 with an impressive 4.99 ERA against some of the best college competition in the nation. Playing in the superstar studded SEC has done wonders for Steve’s on field character.

“It gave me confidence,” Gruver said about the power conference. “I know I have the ability to get good batters out. I had a strong and healthy year this year and did what was asked of me.”

The former Falcon also did everything that was asked of him in the four years he played for head coach Wally Ford. Gruver is the all-time strikeout leader at Fitch and was 15-5 there as the pitching ace. The southpaw said the experience he gained in Austintown was immeasurable.

“I developed a good work ethic at Fitch,” said Gruver. “The support of the Austintown community has been awesome.”

The support Gruver has gotten over the years from his dad Mark has been awesome as well. Mark was the one who took to him all of those Little League practices and helped him hone his skills before high school and he now gets to enjoy the benefits of that fatherly chore.

“I grew up with all girls so I didn’t have much of a clue about baseball,” said Sue Gruver with a laugh. “My husband played baseball all his life so it means so much to him (that Steve got drafted).”

It also means a lot to the Falcon faithful who now get a chance to cheer on one of their own even it means rooting against the Indians once in a while.

Article Photos

Photos from the Town Crier archives
Then-sophomore pitching sensation Steve Gruver shows his winning form at Myrtle Beach in a night game under the lights during Spring Break week in May of 2006. The former Falcon was drafted by the Minnesota Twins last week.



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