XENIA — By playing summer collegiate baseball for the Xenia Scouts, David Gauntt is experiencing what life’s like on the other side of the Mississippi River for just the second time in his life.
Whether it’s the country air of Greene County, or his familiarity with a hanging slider in any ball park, Gauntt is feeling quite at home.
As of Tuesday, Gauntt was leading the Scouts in hits (25), home runs (4), doubles (6), triples (tied with teammates Levi Gilcrease and Zach Wylie with one each), and runs batted in (18). He’s second on the team in batting average (.379), and runs scored (12).
His stats have him among the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League leaders in home runs (tied for first) and RBIs (third).
“I’m really comfortable here. When you’re swinging the bat well, you’re just going well at the plate. You get more confidence, and the ball starts to look a little bit bigger. You don’t worry as much when you have two-strike counts, instead you just kind of relax up there,” he said prior to Tuesday’s game. “The first couple days, I had the chance to face some D-I pitching, which is a level above where I’m at. And I did pretty well. Those first couple days, when I hit well off those guys, it helped me to realize that it’s the same baseball. Same sliders, same fast balls that I’ve seen before. You just build confidence in yourself.”
The Scouts’ off-the-field work with Athletes in Action, a faith-based ministry based here in Xenia, sold Gauntt on coming here to play.
“It really aligned with my faith, and it combines my faith with baseball, two of my favorite things. As much as I love baseball, I love talking about Jesus and what He’s done for me even more. So the opportunity to share with other teams, with other guys who are in the same position as I am on a baseball field, there’s nothing better than talking to them about Jesus,” he said.
Gauntt just finished his junior year at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, where he led the Ichabods in home runs. That’s right, the Ichabods. He laughed when was asked to explain what an Ichabod was. Apparently, a school known as Lincoln College was one of the first colleges to be open to students of any race or gender. It nearly went bankrupt until Ichabod Washburn came to the rescue with a $25,000 loan.
“That would’ve been millions of dollars in today’s money, with inflation and all, and so to honor him, we’re the Washburn Ichabods,” Gauntt explained.
His whole family — mom and dad, Ryan and Jan Gauntt; and his sister and brother, Lyndsey and Derek Gauntt — were cheering David on from the Grady’s Field grandstands on Tuesday.
“He was going to be drafted by the Texas Rangers,” Ryan Gauntt said. “And so we all prayed about it, but he told the Rangers that he wanted to go back to Washburn for his senior year. He didn’t want them to waste a draft pick on him.
“He talks to me almost every night by phone, and I can tell he really loves playing here. … Even on bad days at the plate, he enjoys being with the team and sharing the Word with others,” Ryan said. “As his parents, we’re absolutely thrilled with his decision.”
His mom, Jan, said there was a time that David was struggling with his baseball game, and she and Ryan helped keep Gauntt’s priorities in check.
“We reminded him that he’s not a ballplayer first, that happens to be a Christian. He’s a Christian who plays baseball,” she said. “And this time he’s already spent with the Scouts has already enabled him to keep that as a priority. He’s just played very well.”
Hamilton scored three runs in the top of the ninth inning to rally to a 7-6 win on Tuesday. The two teams will meet up again tonight at Grady’s Field for another 7:05 p.m. start.