Aug 14, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Tyler Gilbert (49) celebrates with Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Daulton Varsho (12) after throwing a no hitter against the San Diego Padres at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

“My son,” said the owner of Gilbert Electric, “is a helluva electrician.”

He should know. Greg Gilbert, a fourth-generation electrician proud of his trade, worked alongside his son Tyler all last summer during the pandemic and parts of the previous few years, when his son returned home from his other job.

“He can always fall back on being an electrician, that’s for sure,” Gilbert said.

But for the time being, that’s all it will be, a fallback plan. Tyler Gilbert is otherwise engaged, and while his apprenticeship in his other line of work — throwing a baseball for a living — may have taken longer than most, the early returns were historic.

Last Saturday in Phoenix, in the first start of his major-league career, the 27-year-old threw a no-hitter for the Arizona Diamondbacks against the San Diego Padres. He became just the fourth pitcher in MLB history, and first in 68 years, to throw a no-no in his first start.

“I’d rather be doing this than pulling wires,” Tyler said afterward. “No offense, Dad.”

No offense taken, we can guarantee you that. If you were watching on TV that night or saw the highlights afterward, you probably already figured that out, because the cameras kept cutting to Greg in the stands, urging his son on, punching the air, thrusting his arms upward and ultimately dissolving in tears when the final out settled in the glove of Arizona center fielder Ketel Marte.

Greg was surrounded by so many of the other people who were part of Tyler’s improbable odyssey: his mother Peggy; his girlfriend Caitlin Akeman and her dad; Grandpa Jim and Uncle Tom; Connor Detko, who pitched with Tyler at Santa Barbara City College, and Detko’s parents, who hit it off with Greg and Peggy and traveled to so many games together to watch their sons.

“I’m pretty proud of my son,” Greg said. “Tyler has worked so hard for this his whole life and it’s been a journey, and I’m glad he’s with somebody that finally gave him a chance to show what he can do.”

Tyer wasn’t drafted out of high school. He broke his left hand, his pitching hand, while batting in a game during his senior year at San Lorenzo Valley High, which is nestled in the mountains in Felton, Calif., just above Santa Cruz.

The big college programs didn’t come after him, either. He went to Santa Barbara City College after his high-school coach, Shane Sutcliffe, made a call on his behalf. He pitched well enough there to be recruited by USC, then was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the sixth round in 2016.

Tyler wasn’t a name that popped up on anybody’s top-prospects lists or made minor-league all-star teams. He didn’t light up radar guns with his fastball, which hovered around 90 mph, and the rest of his repertoire lit no fires with evaluators. By his third season in the minors, still in Class-A ball, the Phillies made him a reliever, and then in 2020, just days before the start of spring training, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a minor-league deal for outfielder Kyle Garlick.

Less than a month later, the pandemic hit, and the Dodgers didn’t offer him an invitation to their alternate training site for minor leaguers. Tyler went home to Felton, where he worked out with Sutcliffe and worked alongside his dad.

Greg said they never had the conversation. You know, the one where father suggests to his son that maybe this baseball business wasn’t going to work out and he ought to think about joining the family business full time.

“I hear you,” Greg said to the caller who asked him whether he’d popped that question to his son, “but he didn’t want to give up. He didn’t want to throw in the towel. But you’re hitting some nerve, you’re hitting some spots.

“He knew he could always come and work with me. I had enough work to keep him busy and paying his bills and learn a great trade.”

That wasn’t Tyler’s vision, and, truth be told, it really wasn’t Greg’s either. Greg had pitched, too, in a semi-pro Joe DiMaggio League in Santa Cruz, and he was the one who tossed a ball to Tyler while he was still in diapers. And when Tyler threw it back to him right-handed, Greg put it back in his left.

"I have a picture of him throwing right-handed in diapers, but I wanted him to be a left-hander because I knew left-handers could maybe go a little further than righties if they’re good enough," Greg said.

It was Greg who coached Tyler until he got to high school and never really wavered in his conviction that all Tyler needed was someone who believed in him. That didn’t happen with the Dodgers; they did not give him a Triple-A roster spot last winter, leaving him eligible for the Triple-A Rule 5 Draft. However, a Diamondbacks scout saw something in Tyler, according to Arizona pro scouting director Jason Parks.

Matt Hahn was based in Tampa and had seen a lot of Tyler during spring training in Florida, where the Phillies were based in nearby Clearwater. Parks said Hahn was the guy who recommended that the Diamondbacks claim Tyler, who was then told by the club that it wanted to make him a starter again.

Tyler pitched well enough for the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A team in Reno to warrant a September call-up, especially for a team that had long fallen out of contention. But the promotion came sooner. Arizona needed a lefty out of the pen, and Gilbert got the call.

On Aug. 3, at age 27 and 224 days, Tyler made his major-league debut in Phoenix against the first-place Giants, the team he grew up rooting for with his family. He pitched a scoreless inning, striking out two. Greg was there, as was Sutcliffe, Tyler’s high school coach.

A couple of nights later, Tyler gave up an unearned run and took the loss in another relief appearance against the Giants. Peggy and Tyler’s sister Chelsea were present in San Diego for his two scoreless innings against the Padres.

When they received word that Tyler would be starting last Saturday, seven days after his last relief appearance, the Gilbert traveling party grew exponentially and spent that night displaying far more angst in the stands than Tyler did on the mound. The Padres hit 10 balls that measured an exit velocity of 95 mph or more, including six that exceeded 100 mph. One was a scorching liner by Eric Hosmer that Gilbert snagged at ear level in the fifth inning. It dawned on him that this was one of those nights that any hard-hit ball seemed fated to find a glove.

“My goal was to get deep into the game,” Tyler said afterward. “Then all of a sudden, the fifth inning rolls around, and I notice they have no hits. I knew my pitch count was low, and then I get through the eighth on three pitches. In the ninth, I was at 90-something and was like, ‘Damn, this is happening.’”

Until then, Tyler said, he had been able to ignore the noise. In the ninth, he said, he heard everything.

Greg? “By then,” he said, “everything was a blur.”

Trent Grisham struck out. So did Ha-Seong Kim. And then Tommy Pham’s sinking liner stayed airborne long enough to find Marte’s glove. Tyler found himself in the arms of catcher Daulton Varsho. Grandpa Jim raised both arms heavenward. And 62-year-old Greg Gilbert wept.

“It’s what the game of baseball is all about,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “As long as you have a uniform, as long as you give the right effort, anything is possible.”

Tyler Gilbert said he never questioned the art of the possible.

“I knew there was never anything that was going to prevent me from getting to the big leagues,” he told reporters. “That’s something I really bought into, especially this year. No matter what. I was just so confident in myself. I know my stuff can play up here. There was never a doubt.”

On Friday night in Denver against the Colorado Rockies, Tyler will be given an encore. Greg will be watching on TV, fretting about how Colorado’s thin air wreaks havoc on pitchers. But the owner of Gilbert Electric, who says he hasn’t had to advertise in 20 years because people like his work, knows he may never have to advertise again because of what his son has accomplished.

“It was just incredible getting home and hearing from all these different people, about how everybody was watching,” Greg said. “The vet in town, she was telling us she's never screamed so loud in her life, and she's never watched a baseball game all the way through.

“This was just a fairytale that came true.”


Aug 14, 2021; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Tyler Gilbert (49) waves to fans after throwing a no hitter against the San Diego Padres at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

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