(Ralph Trout Photo/Reading Phillies
By GREGG DRINNANTyson Gillies doesn’t report to spring training for 10 days, but his baseball season is off to quite a start.
Daily News Sports Editor
Daily News Sports Editor
Gillies, a 22-year-old outfielder from Kamloops who is in the Philadelphia Phillies organization, spent most of Thursday in St. Petersburg, Fla., hanging out with Derek Jeter, the captain of the New York Yankees.
The two weren’t quite bumming around on a beach. Rather, they were shooting a Ford television commercial. Jeter, 36, has long been an endorser of Ford products.
“I was Derek Jeter’s double,” Gillies told The Daily News late Thursday night, after the shoot had wrapped. “I had to do everything he did the whole day. I was basically following him around all day doing everything he did. It was great.
“I was the Derek Jeter look-alike. . . . It’s been a great day. It’s been a blast.”
Hmm, Gillies as Jeter? Well . . .
“I’m a centre fielder; he plays shortstop,” a chuckling Gillies said. “But on camera I was looking pretty well like him when we were running and from behind and the side . . .”
This all began when Pat Davis, a Clearwater, Fla., firefighter who is a close friend, asked Gillies if he was interested in accompanying him to Orlando for an audition. Davis told Gillies the production company also was looking for professional baseball players.
Gillies, who has been in Clearwater, the home of the Phillies’ training complex, preparing for the season, said “why not and I ended up getting a part.”
Did Davis get a role?
“No, unfortunately,” said Gillies with a laugh. “Other guys said that’s usually how it works.”
Gillies auditioned on Feb. 9.
“That was very short,” he said. “They were trying to figure out what kind of baseball skills you had and your history in the game.”
He got called back for pictures two days later and found out Sunday that he had the role.
Which is how Gillies came to be in a St. Petersburg ballpark on Thursday, along with Jeter and former major league pitcher Anthony Telford, 44, who last played in 2002 with the Texas Rangers.
“We were in one of the older stadiums in St. Petersburg,” Gillies said. “It was awesome. It was fun work . . . a lot of scenes, for sure . . . a lot of sweating outside but it was a blast.
“There were tons of cuts and takes and ‘Do it again’ and everything like that.”
There was one other part of the day that Gillies said he really enjoyed.
“There was a lot of good food. That was the best part,” he said. “I definitely took advantage of that.”
Then he laughed and added: “If it’s free, I’m there.”
Gillies said he has no idea when the commercial will begin airing and he’s not sure what it will look like.
“You’ll also see me probably doing other stuff,” he said, “but I’m not too sure on everything they’ll have going on.”
Jeter goes into this season with 2,926 career hits. He is the Yankees’ all-time leader and also has more hits than any other shortstop in major league history.
“He was great,” Gillies said. “It was cool. It’s awesome just to be able to talk to him just like you talk to any normal individual. It was great.”
If Gillies is going to make it to the major leagues, his legs will get him there. His game, on offence and defence, is built on speed. Last season, he was plagued by hamstring problems that brought a premature end to his fourth professional season. He was in his first season at Class AA, with the Reading, Pa., Phillies, Philadelphia having acquired him from Seattle in the deal that had left-hander Cliff Lee, the former Cy Young winner, go to the Mariners.
So guess what Gillies chatted about with Jeter?
“He talked to me about how to stay healthy,” Gillies said. “I asked him some things about his legs and hamstrings. He gave me some advice on some things to do to be able to stay healthy and keep your body in shape to play every day.”
Gillies has worked hard to get his legs healthy again.
“The legs feel good right now,” he said. “They’ve been good. I continue to do therapy every day to make them stronger.
At the end of the day, though, this wasn’t about getting ready for another season or thinking about training camp. It was about one professional baseball player trying to soak up everything he could from one of the best to ever have played the game.
As Gillies said: “It was definitely not something you get to do every day . . . hang out with Derek Jeter all day.”
Taking Note on Twitter