George Mason’s Gartland Strikes Out Batters For A Cause: Helping FirefightersFeatures
MIAMI — Relievers are often called “Firemen” – a baseball term that goes back 50 years.
But George Mason’s Chad Gartland, the son of a firefighter, has really earned the “Fireman” nickname.
Gartland, a righthander from Rochester, New York, pitched in lots of roles last year — putting out fires in a sense — but that’s not why the nickname truly suits him.
He’s “Fireman” Gartland because of the heart he has shown for his father’s profession.
“It’s amazing seeing all the work he does and the people he helps,” the 21-year-old pitcher said of his father, Jason Gartland, the chief of the St. Paul Fire Department in the town of Irondequoit, N.Y.
Wanting to honor his father – and other firefighters – Gartland had a brainstorm prior to the start of this season.
He got together with his coaches, and George Mason pledged to donate $10 per each Gartland strikeout, with the money going to support the local Fairfax City (Virginia) Fire Department.
Gartland made his 2023 debut on Saturday night as the Patriots’ No. 2 starter night at FIU. Gartland pitched five scoreless innings, striking out four batters while allowing just two hits and two walks. He also picked up a no-decision as FIU won, 3-2.
Because George Mason won the opener on Friday, this weekend series will be decided on Sunday.
Gartland, asked prior to the start of the series about escaping the cold weather back home, was enthusiastic.
“Who doesn’t love a nice trip to Florida?” Gartland said. “But this is a business trip.
“We’re coming to win, and we know it’s going to be a fight.”
As for the donations to the fire department, George Mason has challenged others to match the $10-per-strikeout marker, with the hopes of raising some serious money by the end of the season.
“We proposed this idea of this donation at our banquet (on Feb. 3),” Patriots pitching coach Ryan Ricci said. “There was a ton of interest from donors.
“I see this snowballing, especially if (Gartland) gets off to a good start. Our goal is to raise $150,000.”
Jason Gartland explained that while fire departments operate on tax dollars, they often don’t have the money to afford the best equipment or technology.
For example, thermal-imaging cameras – which cost about $10,000 each – are often too expensive for the budgets of fire departments.
Those cameras can see through smoke and can help firefighters identify where potential victims might be located.
Chad Gartland knows a lot about firefighters. He grew up around the fire station back home. Everyone knows him there and vice versa.
“My son has always been a giving kid,” Jason said. “We love to see him give back to the community.”
Chad’s charitable efforts aside, his baseball career has developed slowly.
He pitched and played shortstop at Irondequoit High, and he initially wanted to be a hitter in college. However, he had no Division I or even D2 offers and settled instead on Niagara County Community College as a pitcher.
As a sophomore at Niagara, he blossomed, going 6-2, 1.88 with three complete games and two shutouts. He held opponents to a .161 batting average, striking out 61 batters in 48 innings.
Last year, he went 3-2, 3.99 with three saves, earning All-Rookie honors in the Atlantic 10 Conference. His 16 appearances were split evenly between starting and relieving.
“What we love about Chad is his ability to compete,” Ricci said. “You know he won’t be scared. If anything, you have to rein him back.”
Gartland throws a four-seam fastball that he can elevate at 90-93, a movement-heavy splitter and a sweeping slider.
Ricci said the splitter is Gartland’s best pitch.
“It acts like a knuckleball,” Ricci said. “He kills the spin. His spin rate on that pitch is only 300 to 400.”
Gartland, listed at 6-2 and 190 pounds, said the velocity on his splitter and slider are similar – “upper 70s.”
Off the field, Gartland is majoring in kinesiology with designs on a career as a physical therapist. A good student with a grade-point average of 3.5, he made the Atlantic 10’s honor roll last season.
“Chad is the best kid on the team as a person,” Ricci said. “There’s not a kid on our team that doesn’t like Chad. He’s a great teammate, and he’s becoming a leader.
“He had wanted to get more involved in the community, and this fundraising idea for the fire department is perfect. It obviously means a lot to him.”
Indeed, Gartland wears jersey No. 21 for a reason.
It’s his father’s badge number.
“If I were half the man my father is,” Gartland said, “I would be set for life.”