Former UNC Pitcher Zac Gallen,
Ex-NCSU Star Trea Turner Among
NC College Products In MLB’s “Final Four”
(Also Represented: Campbell, East Carolina)

By David Glenn
North Carolina Sports Network

Major League Baseball is down to its “Final Four,” to borrow a famous college basketball phrase, and as usual the state of North Carolina is well represented.

On the American League side of the bracket, where the Texas Rangers have a 1-0 series lead on the defending World Series champion Houston Astros, one of the most prominent players is Rangers shortstop Corey Seager, a four-time MLB All-Star who played at Northwest Cabarrus High School in Kannapolis before jumping straight into the professional ranks in 2012.

On the National League side of the bracket, two of the most prominent players bring a fun Tar Heel-Wolfpack angle to the matchup between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Former UNC pitcher Zac Gallen, a 28-year-old right-hander who finished fifth in the NL Cy Young Award voting last season, is tonight’s Game One starting pitcher as the Diamondbacks visit Philadelphia. Former NC State shortstop Trea Turner, 30, is a two-time MLB All-Star now in the first season of an 11-year, $300 million contract with the Phillies.

Gallen’s three seasons in Chapel Hill (2014-16) overlapped with Turner’s three seasons in Raleigh (2012-14) during the 2014 campaign.

At the press conference leading into this year’s NLCS, Gallen offered a visible glimpse into his collegiate roots by wearing a short-sleeved, Carolina blue #23 Michael Jordan UNC pullover to the event.

Asked about his attire, Gallen said he hoped to draw inspiration from Jordan and other famous athletes who rose to the occasion at the biggest possible moments.

Although Gallen wasn’t alive when UNC beat Georgetown in the 1982 NCAA championship game, with Jordan (then a freshman on a team with veterans such as Sam Perkins and James Worthy) hitting the game-winning shot with only 16 seconds remaining, he’s well aware of the details behind that huge moment.

“When they drew up the play for Michael to take the shot in the national championship (game) as a freshman, they knew he’d be open,” Gallen said. “I forget who was talking about it — if it was Dean Smith, Roy Williams, whoever. He said you could just see the look on his face in the huddle. He was prepared for it, and he wasn’t scared to take the (NCAA title-winning) shot.

“So, for me, I think, it comes down to preparation. I was thankful to be able to pick (legendary LA Dodgers starting pitcher) Clayton Kershaw’s brain a little bit (during) this past series. I’m fascinated with how guys have done it for so long, and I think the key with him is preparation. You prepare for four out of the five days (as a starting pitcher), so that way on the fifth day your talent takes over and everything, your mind isn’t wandering.

“So I think that seems to be the common theme with a lot of the greats, in any field, really.”

Four of the five still-active players with ties to the state of North Carolina are participating in the NLCS.

Former Campbell star Ryan Thompson, a relief pitcher, is among Gallen’s teammates on the Diamondbacks. Former East Carolina star Jeff Hoffman, also a relief pitcher, is among Turner’s teammates on the Phillies.

Former Duke star Bryce Jarvis made his MLB pitching debut with the Diamondbacks in August and was on their postseason roster during the wild card round, but he was not included on their revised rosters for the NLDS or NLCS.

2023 ALCS/NLCS Participants
(NC Division One Programs)


Ryan Thompson, P, Arizona

East Carolina

Jeff Hoffman, P, Philadelphia

North Carolina

Zac Gallen, P, Arizona

NC State

Trea Turner, SS, Philadelphia

NOTE: North Carolina’s other D1 baseball programs are at Appalachian State, Charlotte, Davidson, Duke, Elon, Gardner-Webb, High Point, North Carolina A&T, Queens, UNC Asheville, UNC Greensboro, UNC Wilmington, Wake Forest and Western Carolina.

2023 MLB Playoff Participants
(North Carolina High Schools)

Corey Seager, SS, Texas (Northwest Cabarrus HS, Kannapolis)

BELOW: NC State basketball legend Chris Corchiani is a life-long fan of the Philadelphia Phillies, a close friend of Elliott Avent and Trea Turner, and a huge supporter of Wolfpack athletics. We discussed Turner and the Phillies during Corchiani’s recent visit to the David Glenn Show, which he joined while visiting Avent at NC State.