Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics
Growing up just two hours south down Interstate 81 in Bristol, Tenn., Gavin Cross likely never envisioned suiting up on the diamond for the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Being raised in a baseball household just across the Virginia-Tennessee state line, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound outfielder was no stranger to America’s pastime.
With his father, Adam, spending his collegiate playing days just down the road with East Tennessee State in Johnston City, and later playing three years of professional baseball in both the Atlanta Braves’ and San Diego Padres’ organizations, Cross already had a foundation laid in terms of skill-set when picking up a bat and a ball.
The former Tennessee high school product still found himself being vastly under-recruited, however. Choosing the Hokies over the likes of Duke, Tennessee and Liberty, to name a few, Cross had the numbers at the amateur level to open some eyeballs, but maybe not necessarily the rankings.
Tabbed as the 37th-best player in the state of Tennessee and the 500th nationally, according to Perfect Game, the now-collegiate superstar came to Blacksburg with a chip on his shoulder. The results were instant.
As a true freshman during the pandemic-riddled 2020 season, Cross made an immediate impact. After being only one of four Hokies to start all 16 contests, the promising prospect hit .369. He totaled 24 hits and added seven multi-hit games — tied for a team-best.
That small sample of success didn’t stop there.
Cross Comes On
As a returning “COVID freshman” prior to the 2021 season, Cross became the first rookie in program history to ever be named first-team All-ACC. By hitting at a .345 clip with 11 homers and 35 RBIs, the left-handed stud quickly began to garner national attention.
Cross hit for the cycle against his dad’s alma mater in his own backyard in the Tri-Cities of Tennessee. He paced the team in hits, runs, doubles, triples, homers and stolen bases. Cross also delivered in clutch moments in the gauntlet of the ACC. As Cross continued to hit, heads continued to turn.
A 2021 College Baseball Nation second-team All-American, a one-time Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week, and most impressively, a selection to the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, had capped off a stellar freshman campaign.
Think Cross was satisfied with just a selection to play for the stars and stripes? Think again.
The lefty bat cranked out a team-best .467 average, while tying for the lead in homers (4) and RBIs (12).
Most importantly, he continued to increase his draft stock. Ironically, Cross did so at his old stomping grounds once again. Cross produced those numbers throughout Appalachian League ballparks in Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee, and really solidified himself as one of the nation’s best heading into 2022.
High In The Ranks
Now, Cross is a 2022 Golden Spikes Award watch list member. He’s also a projected top-10 draft pick in the upcoming 2022 MLB Amateur Draft, according to multiple outlets. The sky’s the limit for Cross in what will likely be his final season at the collegiate level.
A five-tool guy who can hit to all fields, Cross possesses potent power. He does so while rarely striking out. A speedy threat, and a great defender, Cross can do it all.
There’s been some good ones to suit up for the maroon and orange.
Chad Pinder of the Oakland Athletics, former World Series champion Brad Clontz, longtime Major League manager Johnny Oates, and starting rotation mainstay Joe Saunders come to mind. Few who have come through Blacksburg, however, have been like Cross.
Poised to become the highest draft pick in program history, trumping Saunders’ selection at No. 12 overall in 2002, there’ll be a lot of eyes on Cross. He’s a once-in-a-generation type talent to occupy the home clubhouse at English Field at Atlantic Union Bank Park.
What will likely be his final season in Blacksburg begins on Friday against UNC Asheville. Sit back, relax and enjoy the show.