In his conversations with Stephen Gant during the recruiting process, Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin came away impressed by “a country kid that was real” and “very much a leader.”
Less than 24 hours after hearing that Gant, a Vanderbilt baseball signee and a high school senior from Parsons, Tenn., had died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, Corbin was still trying to wrap his head around the shocking news.
“I don’t have any significant words. I just feel terrible about it as do many people,” Corbin told reporters at Hawkins Field on Wednesday. “We were his future. We’re certainly not his present and his present is more affected — his mom and dad, his grandfather, a guy who sets up his lawn chair to see his grandson pitch, his many teammates, his brothers and sister, people who have been very important in his life.
“It cuts deep. It really does.”
Gant was found dead along the side of a road in Perry County on Tuesday. On Monday, the Major League pitching prospect had thrown a two-hitter and hit two home runs for Riverside High School. Vanderbilt pitching coach Derek Johnson actually sent him a text message later that night.
The Commodores coaching staff heard the news just hours before Tuesday’s home game against Tennessee-Martin and Corbin said he thought about Gant throughout the game.
“I can’t say in the short term, in the amount of time that I’ve known Stephen and known his parents, that there would be any clues to this,” Corbin said. “He was doing very well I would think from an academic standpoint and an athletic standpoint too. ... When these things happen it catches you way off-guard.”
Corbin described Gant as a competitor and relayed how he “demanded the baseball” in the championship game of a recent national tournament. His competitive drive drew parallels to another right-handed pitching star from Tennessee — former Vanderbilt standout Sonny Gray.
“If I had to compare him to anyone — and this is not fair to Stephen nor is it fair to Sonny,” Corbin said, “but he was kind of a Sonny-type pitcher in the fact that it was a smaller physique, it was a power arm with power breaking stuff and a competitor that came from a country-type background.”