7/24/2014 2:00 P.M. ET
Giles latest success story from Yavapai College
Phillies reliever is among 15 MLB players produced by tiny school in Arizona
By Steven Jacobson / Special to MLB.com
PHILADELPHIA -- Curt Schilling and Ken Giles share more in common than you think.
True, they're both hard-throwing righties who have pitched for the Phillies. However, they're also both desert natives who attended Yavapai College in Prescott, Ariz.
"I thought it was great to watch him throughout his career. He was a great pitcher to watch," said Giles, who grew up watching the six-time All-Star Schilling pitch for the Phillies, Diamondbacks and Red Sox.
Giles and Schilling's alma mater is home to 1,800 full-time students. However, the school has produced 15 Major Leaguers, including Athletics first baseman Kyle Blanks and Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun, along with Rays pitcher Kirby Yates.
"It's a great community to go to if you want to just focus on baseball, and kind of relax and not be too stressed," said Giles, adding that it's a great alternative for players like himself who don't want to attend larger colleges. "Overall, it's just a great program. The coaches are great, and they're all very knowledgeable."
Giles, who grew up in Albuquerque, N.M., wasn't primarily a pitcher until he began attending Yavapai. Instead, he utilized his strong arm to nail baserunners from the outfield.
"I was actually an outfielder for most of my high school career," Giles said. "I pitched here and there as a reliever -- I never really started. I was mostly a center fielder until I got to college, where they wanted me to pitch."
Giles' arm strength is something that he's always possessed, but he took great care to nurture and develop it while he was young.
"[I] took care of myself. I knew that I had a special gift in my arm," he said.
Giles said he mostly focused on baseball. While he played basketball and football in the offseason for fun, he tried not to take them too seriously, asserting that he made sure not to put unnecessary stress on his body. Giles always had his eye on the Major Leagues, noting that he knew baseball might very well be his career down the road.
Giles' hunch proved to be correct, as he made his MLB debut on June 12 against the San Diego Padres. He allowed a home run to Yasmani Grandal in his first taste of The Show, but Giles hasn't looked back, allowing only one run in the 16 games he's pitched in relief since then entering Thursday's series finale against the Giants.
Giles, whose fastball pops in at an average of 97.7 miles per hour according to BrooksBaseball.com, credits his improved command and slider as the keys to his success this season.
"My command is excellent; my slider's even better," Giles said.
Beyond his 1.13 ERA, Giles' peripheral stats entering Thursday are superb. His WHIP is 0.88; his strikeout to walk ratio is 7.33; and he's held batters to a .196 average.
With a scorching fastball and wipeout slider, Giles looks to have all the tools of a dominant late-inning reliever. For now, he's continuing to make Yavapai College proud.
"It's developed such great talent," he said.
Giles can count himself among that group.
Steven Jacobson is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.