Gelof makes it to The Show

Cape Region shows up for hometown hero’s Mid-Atlantic debut
August 14, 2023

When one of their own made it to The Show, Cape Henlopen baseball fans made sure to show up the first chance they got. Little did they know, Zack Gelof would put on a show for them when the Oakland A’s visited the Washington Nationals Aug. 11-13.

“Over the years, if you can set daily goals and try to get better, I feel like the end result is success,” Gelof said. “You’re not really thinking about successful results, but the process of it, especially when you're in the big leagues, because that work really doesn’t stop. You have to keep getting better.”

Gelof, the former Cape Henlopen and University of Virginia standout, was called up to the majors in July. He hit the ground running, becoming the fastest player in Oakland A’s history to reach six home runs when he launched a 409-foot blast Aug. 9. 

When he arrived in Washington Aug. 11, the usual red, white and blue of the crowd in Nationals Park had a little green mixed in. Shirts that featured “GELOF 20” on the back could be seen behind the third-base dugout and in left field, with a few sprinkled in between. Following the first pitch, the fans were assured a first-inning Gelof at-bat.

Fans sporting the No. 20 jersey made sure the second baseman knew they were there, as they cheered loudly and applauded with pride as Gelof approached the batter’s box.

Gelof earned a walk in his first plate appearance. He advanced to second on a wild pitch. He then scored on a single from Edwin Diaz.

Flashing some leather in the bottom of the first inning, Gelof smoothly gathered a dart from Shea Langliers to tag the speedy CJ Abrams out on a steal attempt. Gelof’s productive first inning was no surprise to his former high school coach Ben Evick.

“A walk, an advance to second, a run scored and a nice play at second, I’d say that’s a pretty good start,” Evick said.

Evick noted that it’s quite impressive for a guy of Gelof’s size – he’s 6-foot-3 – to have the mobility he has. Although Gelof was a shortstop growing up, Evick believes second base is a great fit for him.

“He has a three-quarters arm slot, which is ideal for that position and quickly turning double plays,” Evick said.

Evick praised Gelof’s offensive game, which is centered around a keen understanding of the strike zone, fast hands and a simple, yet aggressive swing that produces a lot of hard contact.

Those attributes came through in the top of the eighth inning, when Gelof notched his seventh double of the season. With an exit velocity of 106.7 mph, the ball seemed to take off the farther it traveled before stopping at 347 feet. Although the A’s were losing 7-2 at that point, a roar came from the crowd as Gelof reached second.

“Hitting a double down five runs in an away stadium and hearing a lot of cheers was awesome,” Gelof said. “It sucks that we were down by that margin, but just to hear the support from from the fans, friends and family is huge.”

Following the game, a few lucky fans who stuck around were able to score an autograph and a picture. Two of the fans were Lucca and Andrei Tobias, who play for the same travel team Gelof did, Bagel Bombers, and attended Gelof’s camp.

“I feel pretty proud he made it all the way here,” Lucca said. “I was at the camp he went to, and he told us instead of going out with my friends to celebrate on a Friday night, I should go hit fly balls or go get ground balls.”

Following a 1-for-4 performance during the A’s 3-2 loss Aug. 12, Gelof showed why it’s important to continue to put in work during the Aug. 13 contest. Facing a 2-1 count with one out during his first at-bat of the game, Nationals pitcher Trevor Williams fired an 89 mph fastball slightly elevated, but down the middle. Gelof absolutely destroyed it. The 433-foot shot to dead-center left his bat at 105.4 mph. As Gelof rounded second, he made a heart shape with his hands and the A’s play-by-play announcer claimed people were doing cartwheels in Delaware.

The rising star singled in the third inning. Leading off the fifth inning, Gelof wasted no time in launching another bomb, this time to right-center field. The 395-foot blast put the A’s up 5-1.

Gelof singled once more before the Nationals completed a remarkable comeback in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat the A’s 8-7 and sweep the series. While his team came close to a couple of wins, Gelof found great success during the series and playing in front of his hometown fans. Was Lucca and Andrei’s father, Greg, surprised by his success?

“No, not really. Not with the amount of time and effort and dedication he and his whole family have had to baseball,” Greg said.

The support from the fans was not something lost on Gelof.

“The community in Delaware and in the Delmarva area is just huge, and for them to support me means everything,” Gelof said.

For Gelof, success has become the rule rather than the exception as he has advanced. Finding success in high school, college, in the minors and now as a major leaguer, Gelof has proven no stage is too big. Although he has remained humble as he advanced, his numbers have been anything but quiet.

“It’s really just fine-tuning what I think I’m really good at and trying to get the most out of it every day,” Gelof said.

Greg Tobias brought his two sons to the game to get a glimpse of Gelof and said it’s inspiring to see someone from the area make it; it shows other kids it’s possible. For the younger ballplayers hoping to one day make it to The Show, Gelof offered up the following advice.

“Try to have as much fun as you can, play multiple sports and be super competitive. I think when you’re really competitive, play multiple sports, have fun going to the beach, but also put the work into it, you’ll have a good balance of life,” Gelof said.

Gelof’s parents said they have enjoyed his journey. Kelly and Adam Gelof, whose other son Jake was drafted by the Dodgers, said it was great to watch their boys play together, including a run to the College World Series. They say Charlottesville, Va., welcomed them with open arms, and they have experienced that with the A’s as well.

“There are many ‘not in Kansas anymore’ moments, like facing legends like Max Scherzer or the 102 mph fastball from Aroldis Chapman,” Adam said.

Having watched Gelof throughout his athletic career, Adam explained what he thought about his son blasting two home runs.

“I can go back to 7-year-old pitching-machine tournaments, soccer matches, YMCA basketball games, middle school basketball games, football games,” Adam said. “The brighter the lights, the more important games, have always been his best performances.”

Adam recalled the nationally televised MLB Network game when Virginia faced No. 1 Vanderbilt and the Delaware high school state title game when Gelof led the game off with a double before tagging and scoring from second on a fly ball.

“The biggest thing I was thinking about, because it actually wasn't those prior moments, was as I looked around the beautiful DC ballpark at all the people of our community wearing Gelof shirts, driving three hours to support him,” Adam said. “It gets me emotional because I love where we live to my core. It was like walking around a Cape game.”

Adam said his mother and father would have been proud to see the Gelof name around Nationals Park. Zack believes other Cape names will be seen in MLB ballparks in the future.

“I love the sport, and while I feel like I might be one of the few to get here, I’m definitely not going to be the last,” Gelof said.


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