The tinny jostling was loud enough for a wake up call. Glenn Cecchini lifted his head from the pillow trusting what he heard this time. He popped up out of bed surrounded by darkness, and leaned his head forward again to make sure.
Yes, he was convinced, someone was trying to break into his house. Through the front door
The doorhandle jiggled in the wee hours of the morning, as it did a few nights ago when Glenn went back to sleep thinking he might have been hearing things. There was no doubt this time. Someone was trying to break into his Lake Charles, La., home. Through the front door
Cecchini crept down his steps toward the front door gripped by a mix of fear and anger, ready to pounce on the intruder. As the door slowly opened, and Cecchini primed to move, he fortunately, and quickly, noticed a familiar sweaty face staring at him through a flicker of light in the midnight gloom.
It was his son, Gavin Cecchini
Other 18-year-old boys might slip out to see a girl or hang with friends. Gavin sneaks out to pull 200-pound airplane tires behind his high school so no one sees him. Maybe that kind of diligence explains why the 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior shortstop from Barbe (Lake Charles, La.)
is one of the nation's top high school players and projected to be a first-round draft pick in Major League Baseball's upcoming June amateur draft.
Maybe it's why Gavin has landed a baseball scholarship to Mississippi, though there's a high likelihood he may not make it to Oxford, Miss., in the fall.
Maybe it's why Gavin hit an astounding .532 his junior year, with 11 homers, 45 RBIs and 59 hits in 111 at-bats over 36 games. What's even more impressive is that he struck out only 11 times. Defensively, Gavin broke the Barbe school record for highest fielding percentage. Gavin carried his junior year over into the summer, where he was selected co-MVP of the Under Armour All-American game and played a starring role for Team USA's under-18 squad in Colombia that won the gold medal at the Junior Pan Am Championships.
Gavin has always prided himself on work ethic. He was taking between 500-600 swings a day, waking up at 6:30 in the morning and swinging. Then swinging during lunch break. Then during practice. Then after practice, getting in more swings. And after his swings, Gavin would work out, taking his father's keys to the school and strapping up for midnight tire pulls.
But those late-hour workouts had to stop.
"I remember that night when I thought someone was breaking into the house, I told Gavin, ‘You have to be kidding me,' and Gavin told me ‘Dad, you always taught me that whatever you want in life you have to work for it,'" said Glenn, Barbe's head baseball coach. "But this was a little too much. Everyone was telling Gavin he was doing too much and then Gavin was telling everyone he didn't feel good. We didn't even know he was going back after midnight to work out. Gavin's greatest strength is his greatest weakness. He's determined and works hard. I've coached 26 years and have kids that have made it to the big leagues. Gavin is the most talented kid I ever coached."
Gavin finally began to realize that too much work was not good. His body began breaking down and tightening up. Doctors told Gavin he had to take a few weeks off because he was in danger of pulling his hamstring. Glenn and Raissa Cecchini, Gavin's parents, told him he had to take four weeks off.
"My parents demanded
that I take time off," Gavin said, laughing. "I got up to around 186 pounds and felt really good and strong as I've ever been. My father told me I couldn't do it anymore, and one day my body was really sore and tight. My parents shut me down. I was livid, really angry at my parents. I thought this was terrible. We live right across the street from Barbe and if my parents saw me at the field, they told me to get home. I wasn't allowed to be at the field at all. That lasted about a week. I didn't take my two full weeks off. I was used to playing every day and it caught up to me."
After the first nine games this season, the Buccaneers are 7-2 overall, but 5-0 in games in which Gavin has started. For the first time as a four-year varsity starter, Gavin missed the first weekend of the season resting.
"I learned I can't go out and overuse my body like that, your body just isn't made for it," Gavin admitted. "I have to stretch a lot and listen to my body. If my legs are sore, I have to take it easy. I say it's the glory of God that got me here, and I wouldn't be where I am without Him, or my parents and my brother Garin [who's in the Boston Red Sox organization]. It's amazing how things work in your life. The way I see it, I had to go through this, because I could have gotten seriously injured. My time off made me realize that I have to settle down a little bit, because I never missed a game before this year. My body is healthier than ever."
Then Gavin paused for a second and laughed … "My girlfriend still thinks I'm a maniac, but I did learn. I didn't listen to my dad, my mother, my brother. I thought I was superman. I found I wasn't. I have to listen to the people closest to me, I know they wouldn't steer me wrong. I just always had this feeling I needed to work harder. But I finally feel like a new person."
Barbe last won a Louisiana state 5A championship in 2008, when Garin was a junior and Gavin wasn't yet in high school. The one thing that's eluded Gavin is a state championship. He's done everything else.
Last year, Barbe lost to eventual state champion Jesuit in the state playoffs. Gavin's sophomore year the Buccaneers lost in the state semifinals to Lafayette and his freshman year to eventual state champion Northshore, 11-10, in the state semifinals.
"I know what's ahead but I'll think about the draft and that other stuff later. I think the one thing missing is a state championship," Gavin said. "I played with Garin and one of our goals was to win a state championship together, and we lost my freshman year when Garin was a junior. His senior year, Garin tore his ACL in the beginning of the season so I didn't get to play with him my sophomore year. My dream has always been to win a state championship with my dad, like my brother did his sophomore year. What happens with the draft, I'll leave for then. To win with my dad, that would be a dream come true."