sk Boston College baseball left fielder Chris Galland how he felt about his first fall on campus practicing with the Eagles, and he would say that it went poorly. He’d go on to describe how he wasn’t sure what kind of player he was becoming, if he was mentally ready, and whether or not it would even click in his first year on campus.
Ask BC baseball’s head coach Mike Gambino, though, and you’d get a much different answer.
“At the end of the fall, I told him that he had one of the best falls of anybody that I’ve ever been around,” Gambino said. “All he cared about was getting better. He was head down and work, head down and work. The growth and development he made in his first fall was as good as anyone I’ve ever been around.”
Regardless of perspective, that fall set the table for one of the best freshman campaigns in program history.
Galland worked his way into the starting lineup by the fifth game of the season, going from somebody that Gambino pegged as “a year away” when he arrived on the Heights to a regular in the lineup and eventual All-ACC Third Team selection. He ran rampant, racking up 28 stolen bases, and hit .316 with 36 runs scored. The breakout campaign was even more impressive considering that 10 of the other 12 members of the All-ACC Freshman Team had either been drafted or were highly regarded prospects, while Galland had a single offer (BC), making him yet another overlooked baseball player in the Northeast.
ver the last couple years, BC has capitalized on finding and developing relatively unknown players from the Northeast. Galland is the latest in a steady stream of largely unexpected maroon-and-gold baseball stars. The program, which made an NCAA Super Regionals run in 2016 that vaulted it onto the national stage, has stuck with what got it there: developing undervalued talent.
The linchpin of the team that made it all the way to face Miami in the Super Regionals was starting pitcher Justin Dunn, who went 19th overall to the New York Mets in the MLB Draft that June. Dunn, who hailed from Freeport, N.Y., was an undistinguished reliever his first year on campus but grew into the team’s closer as a sophomore and a dominant starter in his junior season. He was joined in the rotation by Mike King, Rhode Island’s Gatorade Player of the Year his senior year in high school. The lineup was anchored by the duo of Johnny Adams, a native of Walpole, Mass., and Joey Cronin, who played high school ball in Scarborough, Maine.
None of the four were on the radar of the other ACC schools, but they grew into a talented group that was the core of a championship-contending team. In the highly competitive world of college baseball recruiting, up against the likes of prolific conference programs, such as Louisville and Virginia, BC has had to adapt and find the hidden gems.
“That’s how we’ve been built the last couple of years,” Gambino said. “All of the guys that have come out of this program—Michael King, Justin Dunn, Joey Cronin is in Double-A, Johnny Adams is on prospect lists—that’s kind of how we make our living here.”
Galland is the latest player that Gambino can hang his hat on, as the rising sophomore had an unconventional—or conventional, if you frame it in perspective of BC’s former crop of stars—path to Chestnut Hill.
He was a little undersized when he was 13, 14 years old, and I always say, it's those types of kids that work harder than everyone else because they're trying to keep up. youth baseball coach Ted Novio
ed Novio remembers the 13-year-old Galland, who he coached on the New England Ruffnecks travel ball program. Galland was smaller than most of the kids, undersized for his age, but it didn’t take long for him to grow on the longtime baseball coach.
“Chris was the type of kid that wouldn’t let you ignore his athletic ability,” said Novio. “He would just go out there and fly around the outfield, he’d get on base however he needed too—he was a pesky little player.
“He has no idea what it means to back off and slow down. It’s 100 percent all the time, and that’s what drives him. He was a little undersized when he was 13, 14 years old, and I always say, it’s those types of kids that work harder than everyone else because they’re trying to keep up.”
Novio watched Galland flourish during his time with the program, which included the outfielder pushing past early high school struggles at the plate and flourishing. After his sophomore year at Lincoln-Sudbury, a year in which the outfielder was inconsistent at the plate and found himself at the bottom of the lineup, Galland poured all of his energy into the offseason. He worked relentlessly with Novio, spending hours in the batting cages, and bulked up alongside a growth spurt.
His junior year was nothing short of explosive, as he slashed .421 with 20 RBIs as the leadoff hitter for a 15-win team. This upward trend continued, with his senior year resulting in a championship game appearance—and Galland scoring his team’s only run in a 2-1 setback. The conference coaches heaped praise on him, with one anonymously describing him as “a threat wherever you put him in the lineup because of the fact that he can run, hit, and hit for power too,” per ESPNBoston.
Still, even with ESPN’s Massachusetts coverage dubbing him as one of the “lonely five-tool players in the Bay State,” Galland only received interest from BC. His breakout back half of his high school career was a little late in the recruiting game.
“I didn’t understand how the recruiting process went my freshman or sophomore year,” Galland reflected. “I thought I was a great player, but I didn’t realize how much more it took to get to the next level. I just assumed that, oh, I’ll just email a coach and I’ll be a college baseball player.”
So, with BC’s 2016 recruiting class already full, as a result of the team’s late interest, Galland reclassified and spent a post-graduate year with Cheshire Academy. However, an injury limited him to playing just 10 games for them, so his arrival to Chestnut Hill in the fall was unceremonious after needing to rehab—at least for him. Gambino saw something much different.
fter a fall that Galland viewed as plagued with struggles, Gambino saw tremendous progress. This progress was quickly apparent after the winter, as it didn’t take long in the spring for him to make his mark.
He got his first start on Feb. 25 against Rutgers and was instrumental out of the seventh spot in the lineup, going 2-for-5 in an 11-6 win. Five days later, against Niagara, he wreaked havoc on the basepaths, swiping three bases while going 3-for-3 with three runs scored and a pair of RBIs. Gambino knew what he had, and the freshman stayed in the lineup for the rest of the season.
“He continued to work so hard to be an every day left fielder and it was just cool to see,” the coach said. “The kid works so hard and he’s so obsessed with getting better, and that’s why he continues to get better and better.”
Galland’s freshman year was one that will go down in Eagles lore. He was an All-ACC Third Team selection, boasting impressive stats and turning in strong defense in left field. His speed on the basepaths was incredibly frustrating for opposing catchers to deal with, especially during one stretch from Apr. 4 to Apr. 17, a stretch where he stole a base in nine of his team’s 10 games, going 12-of-13 total. His speed is arguably his greatest tool, and Gambino took full advantage of it by giving him the green light after Galland got off to a prolific start, going 10-for-10 on stolen bases to start the season.
“At that point, it was like, look, I trust you,” Galland recalled. “Go get a good jump, go steal a base. That’s kind of the relationship we still have now.”
When he got caught stealing for the first time, there was absolutely no hesitation the next time he was out there. Galland knows, as all great base stealers know, that there is zero room for doubt to creep in. Because of this, he’s the kind of player that when he gets on base in a stealing situation, you—and everyone else watching—can be confident that he’ll take off.
“It’s so hard to throw this kid out,” Gambino said with a chuckle. “To me, there’s a difference between guys who steal bases and true base stealers. A true base stealer is a guy that you know he’s going, he knows he’s going, and everybody in the ballpark knows he’s going—and he still gets that bag.
“That’s what Chris has become.”
“He continued to work so hard to be an every day left fielder and it was just cool to see. The kid works so hard and he's so obsessed with getting better, and that's why he continues to get better and better.” head coach Mike Gambino
ven with elevated confidence and proven performance, Galland entered 2019 the way he had the year before: rehabbing. This was the result of an injury suffered in the prestigious Cape Cod League, where the nation’s best collegiate players gather to tune their skills in the offseason. Playing for the Harwich Mariners against Cotuit on July 7, Galland slid into third base on a grounder to the left side and tore the labrum in his left shoulder. It cut short a strong summer, as he was hitting .262/.379/.342 in 28 games with nine extra base hits. The setback was particularly painful, as it marked his second straight year preparing for college ball with an injury.
“I kind of questioned, why is this happening to me?” Galland said. “It’s the worst kind of question, though, because you take everything in stride. All you can really do is work through it and get better behind it.”
Despite the frustration of needing surgery and a five to six month recovery, Galland was able to fight through the adversity. Luckily, it was his non-throwing shoulder, and any questions of if he would struggle out of the gate were quickly put to rest.
He started the 2019 season on a tear, registering hits in nine of his first 10 games and starting 8-of-8 on stolen base attempts. Throw in the fact that the Eagles added another explosive speedster—freshman outfielder Sal Frelick—and suddenly they boast a potent pairing of underclassmen that will attempt to outdo each other on the basepaths. Frelick has the edge thus far, starting 13-of-14, and while Galland’s average has slumped in recent weeks, the duo figure to play key roles during their BC careers.
“Now it’s almost like a race between all of us over who’s going to get the most bases,” Galland joked. “It’s a fun competition. That’s obviously not the end-all of the game, but when we’re out there stealing bases and just being aggressive and taking extra bases, that’s going to help us be in position to score more runs.”
o compete in the ACC, one of the nation’s best conferences—in basically any sport you can think of—BC has had to get creative with recruiting. What the staff saw in Galland was a kid with all the tools and motivated by a drive that few can compete with, and the fact that nobody else saw it had the rest of the league kicking themselves as he racked up hits and stolen bases on his way to All-ACC honors last season.
Galland finished the year as the program’s single-season record holder for the most stolen bases with 28, and he’s only set up for bigger and better things this year. The sophomore recovered from his injury impressively, added 10 pounds of muscle, and now stands 6-foot-even and 190 pounds. It’s not often that you come across a player with the ability to do almost everything on a baseball field, but that’s what Gambino got when he recruited the native of nearby Sudbury, Mass.
“He’s got basically all the tools,” Novio said when asked to give a scouting report of the sophomore poised for a prolific career on the Heights. “It’s one of those things where you say, just don’t let this kid beat you. Don’t let this kid be the one that beats you every which way.”
Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Editor
Images by Bradley Smart / Heights Editor and Kaitlin Meeks / Heights Senior Staff