Mike Gerber's focus is on the coming months for the Creighton baseball team rather than what happened eight months ago.
Gerber is back with the Bluejays for his senior season after being bypassed in last spring's amateur draft. After hitting .328 last season, Gerber had been projected as a middle-rounds pick.
“I was pretty disappointed after the draft,” he said. “Every player wants the opportunity to play pro ball. I thought I might have the chance to do that after last year, but it didn't happen.”
As much as the snub might have hurt at the time, Gerber insisted that he is not trying to use it for motivation for the coming season. Instead, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound outfielder has his sights set on doing whatever he can to make Creighton's inaugural season in the Big East a success.
“Hopefully, I'll eventually have the chance to play pro ball,” said Gerber, who was drafted after his senior season at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Ill., by the New York Yankees. “We'll have to see what happens this year, but more than anything, I'm just focused on the season. I don't want to look too far ahead.”
Gerber figures to be a key player for Creighton, which returns five position-playing starters as well as the bulk of its pitching staff.
The Bluejays went 30-18 last season but missed the NCAA tournament. They went to the Missouri Valley tournament last May with an outside shot of landing an at-large spot in the NCAA field, but a 0-2 showing killed their chances of making a third straight postseason appearance.
Many observers thought Gerber had played his final game as a Bluejay in an 11-4 loss to Wichita State at the Valley tournament. Did he think that?
“I don't know,” he said. “I didn't want to think about that kind of stuff during the season. I wasn't trying to look too far ahead into the future.”
After failing to get drafted, Gerber headed for the New England Collegiate Baseball League, where he hit .340 and drove in 30 runs for the Ocean State Waves. He hit seven home runs to tie for the league lead and appeared in the league's All-Star game.
He tried to build on his strong summer showing during Creighton's fall practice.
“I've just tried to work on getting more consistent at the plate,” Gerber said. “If you have a good day, you have to try to repeat it the next day and not get too caught up in what you do. Baseball is very humbling.
“You can have a great day and then not do anything the next time out. One of the things I tried to do in summer ball, when you get a lot of at-bats, is just be consistent with my approach. And I tried to continue doing that once I got back here.”
Though he has started almost since the day he stepped on campus, Gerber has struggled with his consistency at times. He earned freshman All-America honors in 2011, when he hit .280 with seven home runs and 23 RBIs.
He struggled most of his sophomore season before a late-season tear that enabled the Bluejays to earn a repeat trip to the NCAA tournament. He wound up hitting .246 and tied for second in RBIs with 36.
Gerber was enjoying his best college season last spring until he had to undergo an appendectomy in late April. Despite missing 15 games, Gerber ended up leading the team in triples (6) and home runs (5) while finishing second with 31 RBIs.
“I think that month he missed last spring probably hurt his draft chances,” said Spencer Allen, Creighton's associate head coach. “He was out at a time when a lot of scouts normally see us.”
Allen, who is in charge of Creighton's hitters, has worked closely with Gerber the past two seasons. Allen senses that Gerber is on a mission this season.
“I think he wants to prove people wrong,” Allen said. “He's not going to come out and say that, but I will. I don't think there's any doubt about that. Mike is pretty even-keeled, but I think he wants to prove people wrong so that he can have the last laugh.”
Gerber insists that recent history will not impact his future performance. He, like all the Bluejays, is looking forward to playing in the Big East.
“Everyone is excited, especially the guys that have been here a long time,” Gerber said. “It's some new competition and some new places to play, and we have our sights set on winning the league.”
His return to Creighton did bring the bonus of allowing him to play with younger brother David, a freshman pitcher.
“That's a cool opportunity that doesn't get to happen for a lot of people,” Mike said. “I'm going to make the most out of it and enjoy my senior year.”