MIDWEST CITY — Whenever Gavin LaValley sees an old picture of himself, a simple thought comes to mind.
“I was big,” LaValley said.
The current pictures tell a different story.
Once a 270-pound kid limited to first base, LaValley has turned into a 6-foot-3, 220-pound hard hitting corner infielder who is likely to be the highest pick from Oklahoma in this weekend’s MLB First-Year Player Draft that begins Thursday night at 6.
“Even if I wasn’t going to get drafted or am not going to get drafted, I wanted to do it for baseball and just to get my body in better shape,” LaValley said. “Two-seventy in baseball: That was carrying around a lot trying to go around the infield. I just wanted to get in better shape overall, whether it be for college or pro or whatever, it helped me out a lot in different aspects of the game.”
The bat speed has always been there for LaValley, who has signed with Oklahoma. In fact, some veteran scouts recently told MLB.com that he has the best bat speed they’ve ever seen.
That was evident this season. He hit 19 homers and drove in 75 runs, while batting .539.
But it was just a matter of getting his body in line, which started with eating better, working out more and hiring a personal trainer.
“I would say the first three months is the hardest part,” LaValley said. “Once you get past the first three months, your body just gets in a routine and it becomes a natural thing. If you get in that lazy habit and stuff, it’s just kind of natural until you break.
“That’s the way I was. I finally broke out of it and now I don’t like going back to that stuff. It doesn’t feel right, so I’m always working out or doing something active.”
The changes to his body happened gradually, too.
LaValley opened his freshman season at 270 pounds. By his junior season, he was around 235 pounds. He shed 15 more before last season, allowing him to easily handle third base for the second straight season.
Losing the weight impressed scouts, showing he has the determination to improve on his own.
“Mainly it was just (scouts) were able to see the dedication that he would take to get himself in shape because they knew he had the ability to hit and they wanted to see the other things come together,” Carl Albert coach Wayne Dozier said. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed he’ll go as high as he can.”
LaValley said he is expecting to hear his name called as early as the third round this weekend, though it could be called even higher.
If so, his dream will come true and the old pictures fade even further into the background.
“I’m pretty excited whether it be tomorrow or the day after or Saturday,” LaValley said. “Just getting drafted is an honor and there’s a lot of kids that wish they can do it. I’m in a lucky situation right now.”