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Cougars Insider: Trevor Gretzky making his way

Outfielder Trevor Gretzky who debuted with Kane County Friday was seventh-round draft pick by Cubs 2011 immediately had overcome shoulder

Outfielder Trevor Gretzky, who debuted with Kane County on Friday, was a seventh-round draft pick by the Cubs in 2011 and immediately had to overcome a shoulder injury from high school football. | Sean King~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 22, 2013 6:13AM

Since injuring his shoulder playing high school football in California in 2010, it has been a slow climb for new Kane County Cougars outfielder Trevor Gretzky to get moving as a professional baseball player.

The Cubs’ seventh-round pick in the 2011 draft had to undergo labrum surgery, thanks to the shoulder injury he suffered as a quarterback as a senior in high school that pushed him to baseball full-time. And he didn’t attend just any high school. He was following Jimmy Clausen and Nick Montana, the son of Joe Montana, as quarterback at Oaks Christian and Westlake Village, Calif.

In addition to the recovery time from that surgery, it was the first time in his life he had ever concentrated solely on baseball.

“I love football, I love the game, but I knew eventually I was going to come back to baseball,” Gretzky said. “I just didn’t know when, but it just so happened when I got hurt, that was it.”

Gretzky only played 35 games for the Cubs’ rookie league squad in Mesa last year and 27 games in short season Class A Boise this season before getting the call to Kane County, where he made his debut Friday. That makes for a grand total of 63 professional games since being drafted in June of 2011. He has a .279 average in 204 at-bats with only five extra base hits, but he says the numbers don’t tell the story.

“I’ve learned a lot the past two years,” Gretzky said. “I learned more about baseball than I have my whole life. When you play the game hard, good things will happen. I feel like I’ve taken big strides. I try not to look at the numbers. I’ve felt great at the plate all year.”

Cougars manager Mark Johnson is high on Gretzky despite the seemingly slow development in his career thus far.

“He hasn’t played a whole lot of baseball,” Johnson said. “He’s kind of playing catch-up. When he signed, he had to have labrum surgery, so that kind of set him back a little bit. He really had to work on his throwing mechanics again and get to playing baseball again.”

It’s not as if the name Gretzky grows on trees. Yes, he is the son of National Hockey League legend Wayne Gretzky. He’s dealt with the attention that comes with it his whole life, so at 20 years old, he’s no stranger to talking about it.

“I try not to think about it that much,” Gretzky said. “My teammates do a good job of not talking about it. I just come out and do my job just like all the other guys. I can’t think my name is better than anybody else’s. That’s just not fair. Ever since I’ve been in the Cubs organization, everybody has treated me like my own person.”

Johnson has dealt with players with famous parents before, but even he admits they weren’t on the level of Wayne Gretzky.

“He handles it very well,” Johnson said. “He understands it and he knows the responsibility and the things that come with it. He’s very mature in that area. It’s good to have a kid like that around.”

Despite the fact that Trevor Gretzky didn’t follow his father’s footsteps onto the ice, he says there is plenty he has been able to learn from his father.

“He’s a humble guy and he’s taught me a lot of things,” Gretzky said. “He wasn’t always the biggest or most talented guy, but he worked hard for everything he got.”

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