The TV was already claimed Saturday night when Luke Williams arrived to Bailey Falter’s apartment.
“I’m a die-hard Chargers fan,” Falter said. “I’ve been waiting for a really long time for this season to start.”
But in the first half of the team’s preseason game, Williams received an alert on his phone. Tyler Gilbert - the former Phillies minor-leaguer who was drafted by the Phils the same year as Falter and Williams - was pitching a no-hitter through seven innings with Arizona in his first major-league start.
That was enough for a die-hard Chargers fan to switch off a preseason football game.
“My boy Tyler Gilbert is on the mound throwing a no-hitter,” Falter said. “I had to stop watching that and watch him throw.”
Greg Brodzinski, the Phillies’ bullpen catcher/catching coach who was also drafted by the team in 2015, texted Williams to see if he was watching. Of course he was. They all tuned in Saturday night in time to see their buddy become the first pitcher since 1953 to throw a no-hitter in his first career start.
Gilbert struck out five and walked three against a tough Padres lineup. The no-hitter was caught by Daulton Varsho, who is the son of former Phillies player and coach Gary Varsho and named after Darren Daulton.
“It was really cool to see,” Williams said. “Gilbert is just a relaxed, chill dude from Santa Cruz. It’s incredible. So cool.”
Gilbert spent five seasons in the Phillies’ system after being drafted in 2015′s sixth round out of the University of Southern California. Williams was drafted in the third round, Falter in the fifth, and Brodzinski in the 18th.
The Phillies moved Gilbert to the bullpen and the left-hander had a 2.83 ERA in 2019 over 36 appearances with triple-A Lehigh Valley.
“He always had a lot of command,” said Brodzinski, who caught him in the minors. “He was a lefty who could put the ball where he wanted and used a bunch of his pitches. Older, college guy so he knew what he was doing from the start. Always a low-heart guy just like you saw with the no-hitter. Never got too high, never got too low. I don’t want to say chill, but when he pitched he was always very relaxed and never let the moments get too big. None of that [on Saturday] surprised me but it was really fun to see him do it at the highest level.”
The Phillies traded Gilbert to the Dodgers during last year’s spring training for outfielder Kyle Garlick. He was mostly a reliever with the Phillies and Williams said he didn’t even realize Gilbert was a starting pitcher until that notification hit his phone.
Gilbert, 27, spent last summer at home after LA did not invite him to their alternate training site during the pandemic. Instead of playing baseball, he spent the summer throwing bullpen sessions to his high school coach and doing electrical work with his father “trying to make ends meet.”
“He was always a guy who was very diligent with what he did,” said Brodzinski. “He worked really hard all the time and just needed a break. He needed the opportunity. It didn’t work out here but he just continued to pitch and has been successful.”
The Diamondbacks selected him in December in the minor-league portion of the Rule 5 draft, tried him as a starter in triple A, and gave him his first major-league start on Saturday. For Gilbert, it was a long road to the no-hitter. And that’s what made it even more special for his former teammates who watched in Philadelphia.
“I feel like this organization never gave him a shot to succeed,” Falter said. “I’m happy he got a chance to go out there and perform for another team and do well. He’s one of my closest friends and I’m very, very, very pleased with where he’s at right now.”