Guts and glory: Andover's Gillette makes final start, graduates Merrimack

·5 min read

May 26—It hit Cedric Gillette just over a week ago.

The finality of his baseball career and how quickly it has come and, well, after this weekend, possibly gone.

"We were at the field the other day and an AAU team of 10-year-olds was warming up," said Gillette, a Merrimack College senior from Andover. "I was just thinking, that was me (and fellow Andover products now teammates at Merrimack) Timmy Kalantzakos and Andrew Selima. and now it's almost over. The time has definitely flown by."

Gillette took the mound one last time this spring with his Merrimack baseball teammates on Saturday in Connecticut, going five innings before being relieved by Kalantzakos.

On Sunday, Gillette walked that aisle, accepting his pre-law degree at graduation.

Like the competitor and teammate he has always been noted for, he said last week that one of those two events is taking a bit more precedence than the other.

"Saturday will be a sentimental day," said Gillette of the final Warriors series of the season, three games at Central Connecticut State. "We have 3 or 4 grad students, eight seniors, all these guys who I've played with four years. Knowing it's going to be my last day with them, a sentimental day.

"Graduation is obviously special, but the way I see it you're supposed to graduate. I won't be too sentimental on Sunday. I just want to win a series this weekend. That's what I'm focused on."

After four years, two head coaches, thousands of pitches and a belly full of laughs, Gillette sees the writing on the wall. At some point, he may actually have to grow up.

Well, maybe. Thanks to COVID-19, the Andover High grad has a year of athletic eligibility left. Grad school may be in the works. But make no mistake, Gillette has left his impact on the diamond for the Warriors.

"My first impressions of Cedric were how much energy he brought to everything (weight rooms, workouts, etc) and how much he interacted with his teammates," said first-year Warriors coach Brian Murphy.

"He leads by example with the enthusiasm he brings and his competitiveness. Also he's set a strong example for our pitchers with how he prepares and how diligent he is with his daily routine in preparing to pitch."

Gillette's impact goes much further than the numbers. He was 4-6 for the 17-29-1 Warriors with a 6.75 ERA in 14 starts.

Now 23, he sounds like a seasoned veteran as he ponders the numbers.

"This year, I had a couple rocky starts that got me and definitely ballooned the stats, I had a lot of good starts too," the former Golden Warrior three-sport star said.

"Individual success really doesn't matter to me anymore. When I first came here I had all these individual goals. Now as a senior, it's all team goals. Every time I went out there and gave my team a chance to win, I'm very proud of that.

"On the back end of my career, those individual goals just don't mean the same. It's all about winning and team success."

The attitude was all that Murphy was looking for from his veterans when he took over the program from Nick Barese.

"He's had a good season and has earned the spot to pitch in our rotation every weekend. He is a command-first guy and relies on locating pitches and being able to mix successfully," said Murphy.

"All his success stems from who he is as a competitor. He's self-aware, willing to work daily, and able stay the course after a bad outing. He wants to win first and he understands his role in that as starting pitcher."

His commitment to the Merrimack program was evident early, and Gillette doesn't feel entitled because of it. He feels fortunate.

"I've been lucky to play for two great coaches, two guys I have a lot of respect for. I learned a lot from them," said Gillette of Barese and Murphy.

"I feel really gracious to have played for this program, these coaches and with all these teammates.

Gillette has his future mapped out pretty well. Over the past four years while killing it in the classroom and on the field, he has picked up valuable coaching experience at his alma mater, Andover High. He's been an assistant and freshmen football coach for E.J. Perry in the fall and coached summer and fall hoop teams for Dave Fazio's boys and Alan Hibino's girls programs.

The experience has Gillette pointing toward a master's in education and a career in coaching.

"Coaching kids has given me the opportunity to have a positive impact on their lives," he said. "It's been a great experience and a rewarding experience. Whenever baseball does end, I'll be coaching. I don't know where or when or how I'll be coaching, but I'll be coaching."

That fact has left the door open for one final season of baseball, due to the NCAA allowing the extra year of eligibility for athletes during the pandemic.

"It's not really hitting me like it would if it was the end-end," said Gillette. "But everything I've been able to experience in sports, to learn, improve as a person. It's definitely flown by. I'm just super grateful for all this experience that I'll be able to take with me for the rest of my life."