Photo credit: Accent Images/Courtesy Akron RubberDucks

The best beard in baseball also racks up the strikeouts. When Hunter Gaddis takes the mound, batter’s first have to look their way up his 6-foot-6, 260-pound frame. They then see his magnificently bushy beard, and its neighbor, his long and flowing hair that brushes his shoulders. Once the batter has taken it all in, Gaddis has already struck them out.   

Gaddis has emerged as a crucial piece of the Akron rotation, which has needed his consistency. The pitching staff faced key losses with Daniel Espino and Tanner Burns missing extended periods of time. He has stepped up to lead the team to a second place finish in the Eastern League Southwest Division.

However, there have been points where his consistency is in jeopardy; mainly in the first inning. Gaddis’ ERA in the opening frame is a shocking 7.82. It then drops over the following frames, giving us the 4.08 he has right now.

“The first inning you kind of get the jitters out… a little adrenaline rush. [It’s just] trying to find the zone.”

Already 12th in ERA, Gaddis sits third in the Eastern League in strikeouts. 

“Strikeouts definitely help. It’s always easier if you can miss the bat. You never know what can happen to you if they can hit the ball poorly and it can still be a hit.”

That is impressive enough, but note that he is still second on the team, trailing recently promoted Logan Allen 104-93 in that category. In fact, all four Akron starters who did not face a prolonged IL stint are top 12 in Eastern League strikeouts. 

That trend is not unnoticed in the clubhouse, nor is coincidental.

“We all talk about the other team’s lineup. We all talk about what works for me, or what may work for them. We all know each other’s stuff pretty well.”

Gaddis also mentioned the rotation has its own competition over who can rack up the most strikeouts, but stressed that they are still one team trying to win and have fun.

“The whole staff has good stuff, and that definitely equates to more strikeouts.”

Finally, you can’t speak about Gaddis without acknowledging his objectively outstanding hair game. Gaddis weighs 60 pounds more than he did in college. Some of that may be muscle he has put on, but a huge chunk has to be in the hair, and a beard he believes has potential to be the best in the big leagues.

“Keep it going. Get it as long as I can.”

When asked  if he had any major league beard idols, perhaps a Charlie Blackmon or Bryce Harper:

“Not really, I just let it go. I don’t really have anyone to impress out here so I just let it go. I’m just letting it eat.”

Hunter Gaddis Fast Facts

Hometown: Canton, Georgia 

Pregame music preference? “Lil Baby for sure. Anything Lil Baby, he’s the man.”

Superstitions: “I’ve got to eat chicken alfredo before I pitch, every time.”

Off day hobby: “Usually just video games. I’ve been on the Fortnite grind for years now.”

If you could go pro in one other sport, what would it be?

“Golf for sure. If you could be a professional golfer that’s probably one of the best lives you can have. Just traveling and playing on crazy courses. “

If you were in charge of renaming the franchise this offseason, besides the Guardians, what would you have gone with? “Probably the Cleveland Baseball Team.”

If you’re getting beat up in a parking lot and get one teammate to help you, who would it be? “Jerson Ramirez, he’s a little crazy.”

Greatest talent off the field: “What’s the phrase… ‘Jack of all trades is a master of none.’ I think I’m pretty good at a lot of things but not really good at a lot of things.”

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