When Gehrig Tucker was 8, he and his father were watching a television program about New York Yankee first baseman Lou Gehrig.
“That’s when he told me I was named after him (Lou Gehrig),” said the younger Tucker prior to Carson’s baseball practice on Thursday.
For all you non-baseball folks, Lou Gehrig played in 2,130 consecutive games for the Yankees from 1925 to 1939. The record stood until Sept. 6, 1995, when it was surpassed by Cal Ripken, Jr.
His durability earned him the nickname the “Iron Horse”, and Tucker, a junior, has been a picture of durability in his two-year with the Senators. The only games he’s missed in his career came this year, and in both cases they were tournament games that had no bearing on the league standing. Other than that, Carson coach Bryan Manoukian has had the comfort of being to pencil Tucker’s name into the starting lineup on a regular basis.
“I can’t remember missing a regular-season game (except that one),” Tucker said. “I missed the last summer game of the season last year to go fishing, but I think that’s it.”
“His competitiveness is second to none,” Manoukian said. “He loves to compete and hates to lose. He can turn to that if he’s sore or tired. He loves to play this game.”
And, Tucker like many high school players in Northern Nevada, hopes to play college baseball after graduating from Carson.
“It’s always been my dream,” Tucker said. “Playing at UNR would be awesome. Since Chase (Blueberg) and I started going to spring training in Arizona when I was 9 or 10, I thought about Arizona State. It would be a dream to go there.”
“It’s definite possibility that he plays at the next level,” Manoukian said. “I know that he has a lot of work ahead of him if he wants to be a big-time Division I player.”
Tucker has a lot of upside. He has a good arm, speed and he’s baseball savvy. As a sophomore, he hit .375 and drove in 14 runs. This year, he’s hitting a team-leading .407 with 12 RBIs. He is the co-leader in runs scored with T.J. Thomsen (22) and leads the team in hits (22). His versatility as a hitter has been key for coaches Cody Farnworth (last year) and Manoukian (this year).
“He’s been our most reliable hitter game in and game out,” Manoukian said. “He’s hit first, second and third for us. Knowing I can put him anywhere in the order and he produces. It’s comforting.”
And, you’ll never hear Tucker complain about being moved around in the order. It’s not his style. He does admit it’s a different mindset depending on where he hits.
“As a lead-off hitter, I always tried to look at as many pitches as possible so my teammates can get a feel for the pitcher,” Tucker said. “Now that I’m hitting No. 3, I know that either T.J. (Thomsen) or Dom (Norton) would be on ahead of me, and I try to hit the ball more to the opposite field and set up Luke (Maher) who always hits the ball hard.
“I think I’ve come a long way as a hitter since my freshman year. I think I hit pretty well last year. I spent the winter working on my swing, and hitting balls off the tee. Knowing yourself (as a hitter) is the most important thing. If you get in a slump (and every hitter does), you know what you’re doing wrong and how to correct it.”
Tucker had a season-opening five-game hit streak, and then had hit streaks of three and four games, respectively. He currently has a two-game streak going into today’s home game against McQueen at 3:45 p.m.
The one thing Manoukian would like to see Tucker get better at is small ball.
“I’d like to see him drag bunt and slap the ball,” Manoukian. “That’s more of a coaching thing, because right now we don’t ask him to do that much.”
Another thing that coaches like about Tucker is his defensive versatility. He can play multiple positions, but has seen very little action in the past two years at second base, which is probably his natural position.
“Even though I’m playing shortstop now, probably my best position is second base,” Tucker said. “It almost always what I played when I was younger. The only time I ever played shortstop was when T.J. pitched. You can be a lot more aggressive at second base. At second, all you have to do is knock the ball down. You have a lot more time to react.”
“I see him as a second baseman in college,” Manoukian said. “As far as high school goes, I can put him anywhere in the field. That’s one of his great qualities.”