Apr. 20—MORGANTOWN — Jedd Gyorko had several MLB offers on the table to play in the big leagues this season, but the Morgantown native decided to put family at the forefront this spring and early summer.
Gyorko, who was introduced as the West Virginia Black Bears manager Monday, has made his home in Morgantown for a while, but with a grinding MLB schedule, there was little time to squeeze in family in between.
His wife, Karley, is expecting their fourth child this summer, and with an opportunity to stay home and begin a coaching career, Gyorko jumped at the opportunity … though he isn’t closing the door on his Major League career.
“My wife and I just decided it would be best for me to stay at home, ” he said. “The league was actually gracious enough that if an opportunity presented itself and it’s something I want to do, I can take that and go. It won’t be until the baby is born in June, but I’m also definitely committed to these kids (Black Bears players). I wouldn’t have taken this job if I was planning on jumping ship and leaving them high and dry.”
Gyorko was an all-state star at University High and did the same for the WVU baseball team, eventually being inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 2020. He was selected in the second round of the 2010 MLB draft by the San Diego Padres and eventually made his Major League debut in 2013.
Since, he’s spent eight seasons on an MLB roster with the Padres, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Milwaukee Brewers.
After spending the shortened 2020 season with Milwaukee, Gyorko was a free agent, and despite fielding offers, wanted an opportunity to watch his kids play the game he loves.
“I’ve never spent a summer with my kids, I’ve never seen them play a baseball game, ” he said. “That’s something that’s been really tough on me and they’re getting to that age where I felt like I needed to be around a little bit more. It’s always a tough decision to not go and play something you’ve played your whole life and grew up around.”
This is Gyorko’s first managerial gig, but he has played under several high-caliber managers during his career, including Buddy Black, Mike Matheny, Craig Counsell, Mike Shildt, and Dave Roberts, all of which either won Manager of the Year or coached in a World Series.
Gyorko takes over the Black Bears, who are in a new league this season, After spending five seasons—the 2020 Minor League Baseball season was canceled due to the pandemic—in the New York-Penn League, the team is now part of the inaugural MLB Draft League. The top collegiate prospects will be a part of the six-team league, including West Virginia, the Frederick Keys, Mahoning Valley Scrappers, State College Spikes, Trenton Thunder, and Williamsport Crosscutters.
The season is set to begin May 24 at Mon County Ballpark against Mahoning Valley, and will end Aug. 13. The MLB draft, which is slated for July 11-13, could cause a roster shakeup for every team in the league, Black Bears General Manager Matt Drayer believes.
“Some have a 60-day policy where they don’t touch any of their mechanics and don’t do anything with them, so a lot of teams will keep their players in the draft league, ” he said. “They’re still getting that experience, they’re still being managed and coached. When they head to fall ball, they still have that energy-level and that experience.
“A lot of it is going to be ‘wait and see what happens. Some players will get drafted and then say no and will go back to school. That window is 30 days, so many will still want to polish up their skills and stay, work with Jedd and the coaching staff for the Black Bears.'”
A roster is expected to be announced soon, and Drayer said a limited capacity will be allowed to games, but discussions will need to take place with state and local officials before a number is announced.
“Everybody is hopeful that during the course of the summer that our attendance will be able to increase, ” he said. “We’re hoping to get back to normal and have a packed house like we usually do the last five seasons before everything happened in 2020. We’re going to follow all the guidelines, it will be a safe and healthy place to go, and we’re looking forward to everyone coming out this summer to cheer on the Black Bears and watch Jedd in his debut as a manager.”