Lawson drafted by Angels: L.A. picks ex-DSU, Dover High left-hander in 19th round

Dover High product Garrett Lawson sometimes draws as many as 20 MLB scouts to his Hornet starts. Photo courtesy of DSU Sports Information

DOVER — Garrett Lawson had been waiting for three days, watching MLB Draft coverage when his agent contacted him during the 15th round.

Lawson was told the New York Yankees wanted to pick him. But the Yankees were going to wait until the 20th round.

So Lawson had to wait some more, he kept checking the draft tracker on MLB’s website when in the 19th round he stopped — another team had beaten the Yankees to the punch.

“All of a sudden I saw ‘Garrett Lawson’ and I was like, wait, that’s me,” Lawson said. “I stopped and I said, ‘Wow, OK.’”
And that’s how Lawson’s pro career began.

The Los Angeles Angels drafted Lawson, a Delaware State University junior and Dover High product, in the 19th round on Wednesday. The 6-foot-3 lefthanded pitcher was the No. 571 overall selection.

Lawson was one of two Delaware natives drafted Wednesday. The other was Brandon Walter out of the University of Delaware and a Hodgson Vo-Tech grad. Walter was picked in the 26th round by the Boston Red Sox (No. 797 overall). Colin Peluse (Middletown High) was also drafted on Tuesday night by the Oakland Athletics out of Wake Forest in the ninth round (No. 284 overall).

Lawson is the first Delaware State player drafted since Dan Perkins was picked in the 27th round of the 2009 draft. He is the first Dover High product selected since Eric Carter, also out of DelState, was drafted in the 10th round of the 2004 draft.

“It really hasn’t sunk in yet,” Lawson said. “I know I’m a professional baseball player now. I’m just so glad that I made it. I’m glad it’s over with. I’m glad someone from Dover/Hartly, Delaware has done something with baseball.”

Lawson spent three years in the rotation at Dover before signing with Delaware State. He lost most of his high school junior season due to a shoulder injury but rebounded to become an All-State first team pitcher as a senior.

His high school coach, Dave Gordon, knew Lawson had a chance to be special the moment he arrived at Dover.

During the first winter workout of Lawson’s freshman season at Dover all the pitchers were lined up on four mounds tossing a bullpen session. Senior Kyle Mace was on the left, junior Nick Spadafino was next to him and another junior Tyler Cullen was third in line.

Mace and Cullen each ended up pitching at Delaware State while Spadafino pitched at Delaware. The fourth pitcher was Lawson, a skinny freshman as Gordon calls him.

“I’m sitting there with my assistants Colin Thomas and Dan Bunnion and I’m like, ‘Do you guys see what I see?’ then we all laughed,” Gordon said. “The freshman was better than all of them. You got three future college arms there and Garrett was right with them boys. I knew we were in good hands for the future of our program.”

With all of that pitching depth in front of him, Lawson spent most of his freshman year pitching for the Dover junior varsity squad. He joined the varsity rotation the next year in 2014.

Lawson announced his presence in a big way. The Senators had a key conference game against Cape Henlopen High during the early weeks of the season but it was the third game of the week.

Spadafino and Cullen had already pitched that week so Gordon was wary of throwing one of them again. So he turned to Lawson, the result was five shutout innings and nine strikeouts in a Dover victory.

Dover ended up winning the Henlopen North title by one game for its first conference championship since 1982.

“I remember that day and I was just happy to play anywhere,” Lawson said. “I had a bunch of guys like Nick Spadafino and Tyler Cullen that I looked up to. I wanted to be like them. Coach Gordon told me the day before that he was giving me the ball and I told him OK, let’s go. I’ll never forget that game, it was one of my proudest moments and it showed me I belonged.”

“Our other guys had pitched that week and I said, ‘Hey we got this sophomore up here and we don’t want to keep him on the bench so let’s see what he can do,’” Gordon recalled. “I remember he gives up a leadoff single, then we turn a double play and he goes and puts up five scoreless. He was on his way after that.”

The shoulder injury sustained during his junior year at Dover meant Lawson missed out on more than just games.

All his scholarship offers disappeared. The only one to remain was Delaware State.

He committed to the Hornets before his senior year at Dover. Then went out and led the Senators to their fourth-straight berth in the state semifinals.

“He crushed it in the weight room that summer and was an absolute animal for us,” Gordon said. “I thought he should have gotten more looks. We had a Red Sox scout come to one game and Garrett was throwing like 83 (mph) in the first inning. I can see the scout packing up. By the end of the game he’s throwing 91 and I called the scout and was like, ‘You should have stayed man.’ That’s the thing with Garrett, he always got stronger as the game goes.”

Lawson had one more injury scare while at Delaware State.

He suffered a ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injury, which usually means Tommy John surgery and a recovery of more than a year. But Lawson was told he had a 60 percent chance to heal by rehabbing in nine months.

He chose rehab over surgery and finished his throwing program in October. After rehab, he noticed another uptick in velocity.

Lawson has topped out this year at 95 mph and consistently sits around 91-93 mph during games. He finished this past season with a 1.89 earned run average in 13 games started and won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s Pitcher of the Year award.

“Garrett came back in great shape and scored high marks on the charts of pro scouts this season,” said DSU coach J.P. Blandin. “The scouts were impressed with Garrett’s athleticism, his low-to-mid 90s fastball, solid breaking ball and command of his pitches. He certainly worked hard to earn this opportunity and we’re extremely proud of him.”

Lawson expects to be assigned to one of the Angels’ Rookie League teams. His two most likely destinations are either the Orem Owls in Utah of the Pioneer League or the Arizona League Angels.

He said he wants to have a ceremony on Delaware State’s campus when he officially puts pen to paper on the contract.

“I want to be in Dover when I sign, just so I can have the Hornet background behind me,” Lawson said. “I want to thank my mom and dad (Kathy and Gary Lawson), my grandma (Patricia Thorpe) and my girlfriend Katherine (Simpson) for putting up with me the last few days. I’m just glad it’s over.”

Gordon said Lawson’s selection is a big deal for not only youth baseball in Dover but throughout Southern Delaware.

“If you’re any kid whether you go to Dover, Caesar Rodney, Smyrna, Polytech or wherever, you should look at this and say, ‘If I put the work in, I’ll get a chance,’” Gordon said. “It doesn’t mater if you end up at Wesley, DelTech, Delaware or Delaware State or somewhere else, the scouts will find you. Garrett will attest to that. If you can play, professional baseball will give you a shot. Don’t ever cut yourself short, keep grinding because the kids that put the effort in are the ones who get a chance.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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