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Ex-Findlay Prep hoops star trying to work his way back to MLB

His team is playing on the road, but Salt Lake Bees pitcher Amir Garrett has felt right at home this week.

Though the left-handed reliever has played for multiple teams since the Cincinnati Reds selected him in the 2011 MLB draft, Garrett has called Las Vegas home since his days as a high school basketball star at Findlay Prep.

As a result, he has been able to spend much of the week with his wife and daughter while the Bees played a six-game series with the Aviators at Las Vegas Ballpark.

“I’ve been living here since I was 14,” the 6-foot-6-inch fireballer said. “I grew up in Vegas and fell in love with it. So whenever you can play on the road but be at home, it’s a great feeling.”

Garrett’s career has been anything but typical. Though he showed promise on the mound as a youth, he opted to focus on a high school basketball career that included stints at Sierra Vista, Leuzinger High in California and Findlay Prep, and he did not play baseball throughout high school.

As the 68th-ranked hoops recruit in the country, according to Rivals.com, he wound up at St. John’s but temporarily returned to baseball during a period of athletic ineligibility. Somewhere in the mix his father convinced him that baseball might be his true calling.

“He was trying to find a fit for me,” Garrett said. “I had been going full-throttle with basketball. And once I got into basketball, I didn’t want to play baseball anymore.”

Garrett slowly began to see that he wasn’t likely to have a future on the court, but there was a significant hurdle to overcome.

“I didn’t even play baseball in high school,” said Garrett, who noted that Findlay Prep did not have a baseball program. “But I’m just a different breed. I could pick up a baseball and throw it 90 mph, so I didn’t need to be around baseball like other kids.”

He impressed Major League Baseball scouts in a 2010 training session with a 96 mph fastball, originally hoping to become a two-sport athlete. The Reds selected him in 2011, and he ended up playing with the Arizona Reds of the rookie-level Arizona League and the Billings Mustangs of the Pioneer League.

“I did really well and started to fizzle out as a basketball player,” said Garrett, who finished the season with a 4.04 ERA with 18 strikeouts and 13 walks in 20 innings.

And so began his ascent to the majors.

A variety of collegiate and minor league opportunities followed before Garrett made the Reds’ opening day roster in 2017. He pitched six shutout innings, allowing just two hits in his first start, a 2-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.

“There’s no better feeling in the world (than playing in the majors),” he said.

Garrett’s career with the Reds culminated in 2020, when he made 21 relief appearances while compiling a 2.45 ERA with 26 strikeouts.

But another change was on the way for Garrett, who was traded to the Kansas City Royals in 2022. Despite solid numbers there, he was released midway through the 2023 season.

Garrett has not played in the majors since, spending time with the Triple-A teams of the Cleveland Guardians (Columbus) and Los Angeles Angels (Salt Lake).

For his MLB career, Garrett is 13-19 with a 4.95 ERA in 322 appearances, with 376 strikeouts in 325⅓ innings.

But at 31, Garrett said he isn’t done. He has made four relief appearances this season at Salt Lake, with a 5.40 ERA and six strikeouts in 3⅓ innings. He said he’s committed to working his way back to the top and prefers not to focus on how he wound up in the minors.

“I obviously want to get back (to the majors),” said Garrett, who still throws a fastball in the mid-90s. “But I’m here now. I’m with the Salt Lake Bees right now. The main thing is to throw strikes and cut the walks down.”

With some hard work and a break or two, Garrett believes he will realize that dream once more.

“I love the feeling of having a chance to face the top dogs, like (Shohei) Ohtani and Bryce Harper,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

Garrett and the Bees will close out the series with the Aviators at 12:05 p.m. Sunday at Las Vegas Ballpark.

Contact Jeff Wollard at jwollard@reviewjournal.com.

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