Greeson: Forever a relief pitcher, Gearrin makes a fresh start on Wamp's transition team

Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Cory Gearrin throws during the fifth inning of a spring exhibition baseball game against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland, Fla., Tuesday, March 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

When Weston Wamp released the names on his transition team last week, there was a slew of familiar names.

Community leaders from business were on the list, along with elected officials like school board member and community champion Joe Smith, and there was the wise addition of David Roddy, who has too much experience in too many needed areas not be part of the leadership discussion as our community heads into its next chapter.

There also was a name that would make the Wamp transition team almost unbeatable in a political baseball tournament.

Longtime major league reliever Cory Gearrin is part of the crew Wamp has assembled to help him hit the ground running when he's sworn in at the first of next month.

Gearrin, a Dayton native who graduated from Rhea County High School, spent 10 years in the majors playing for seven teams, including four years with the Braves, which drafted him.

While there is a slew of challenges ahead for the transition, Gearrin's career as a right-handed reliever may beg the question about his place on his newest team.

But selling the 36-year-old short has proven to be a costly mistake through the years.

Not recruited out of high school, Gearrin made his way onto the baseball team at Young Harris College in Georgia. He got only one offer from a four-year school after his time there, and went to Mercer University in Macon.

He flourished there, becoming a fourth-round pick by the Braves in 2007. Since retiring after the 2020 season with 337 career games pitched, Gearrin has built an impressive resume for his post-baseball career as well.

"You know, I don't even think all the way back to high school I ever considered myself the best player on any team I ever played on," Gearrin said from his Signal Mountain home in a phone interview over the weekend. "And I know that's true about this team, too. Weston has put together an incredible group of experienced community leaders."

Gearrin was active in the players union during his career and even served on the eight-person board that supervised the players' pension fund and focused on labor negotiations and health care administration.

It was the business outside of baseball that caused him to extend his academic career with a Master of Business Administration from the University of North Carolina and become part of the "Crossover into Business" program at Harvard earlier this year.

"It was a program I heard about and knew athletes like Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh had been a part of," Gearrin said. "It was an amazing experience."

It also was just another hurdle cleared by a pitcher and student who, regardless of the surrounding, has made a career of exceeding expectation.

"Here I was, a guy from Dayton with some of the smartest people in the world. It was an honor to be able to contribute to a program at that level from my experiences in the business of baseball," he said of his Harvard experience. "Just to participate in those conversations and the insights you gain was incredible."

His resume clearly impressed Wamp, but as Gearrin gets ready to do what's asked for the new county mayor's transition into office, the specifics of that role may not be 100% clear, but Gearrin's relishing the opportunity.

"That's a good question," he said when asked what his role will be. "But I have a wide-range of experience, both in the game and in the business."

Gearrin is a board member of Advocates of Minor Leaguers, an organization trying to improve the conditions of minor league baseball players.

And considering the recent chain of events that has led to a new stadium being funded by the city and the county for the Chattanooga Lookouts, well, it doesn't take a Harvard man to fashion a guess at one of the areas Gearrin could be of service.

"Some of the macro climate of the happenings in baseball are pretty complex, and I have had a pretty unique experience in the game," he said. "I love the game, and I know sports are incredibly important to any community, especially ours.

"Some of my fondest early memories are from watching games at Engel Stadium. I saw Michael Jordan when he was with the Barons. Getting a glove signed by Aaron Boone, who I eventually played for in the majors. Those little things have always been a meaningful part of my story."

Those little things and a network of relationships in professional sports - especially during a period in which Major League Baseball is taking more of an authoritative role in governing the minor league teams like the Lookouts - could be invaluable during the transition.

Both during the short term and into the future.

"That's not something I am looking for per se," Gearrin said about long term. "I was asked to be part of the transition team, and I am honored to do whatever I can to support that team.

"At the same time, I love the game of baseball and what it can do for a community and what it does for families, and if that was something that was asked of me, I would love to help in any way I can to benefit the Chattanooga area."

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6273. Follow him on Twitter @jgreesontfp.