Sports runs deep for Gunters

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sports runs deep in the Gunter family, especially for Russell and Gabe Gunter.

The father and son duo, originally from Covington County, moved back to the area this year from Crestview, Fla., where Gabe played high school football and baseball.

However, each has their chosen sport.

For Russell it’s football, and for Gabe it’s baseball.

When asked why baseball, Gabe said it’s a sport that he knew he was good at from the beginning.

“I saw myself better as a baseball player,” he said. “I knew I had the arm for it. I didn’t know the coach would give me a chance at quarterback (at Crestview), and I knew that’s all I wanted to play.

“As a ninth grader, I stood out on the varsity team,” he said. “I knew then that I had a real shot at this baseball thing. I started working hard for it, and got with the right people and went from there.”

His fastest pitch can be clocked between 90-91 miles per hour.

Gabe Gunter


Last summer, Gabe said he was pitching between 88-89 mph, and by the first of May, he was pitching in front of Louisiana State University and Mississippi State University recruiters.

But, Gabe’s already made his decision to play baseball at Virginia Tech, and will sign a scholarship with the team next month.

Getting to this point in his life wasn’t easy, Russell said.

When he began to start getting interest from schools all around the country, Gabe was a mere freshman in high school.

Russell said if he had to do it again, he’d wait until he was older to start the process of allowing recruits to salivate over his son’s fast ball.

“He’ll be the first one to tell you he’s had some ups and downs,” Russell said. “He started way too early in recruiting. If I had to do it again, I would hide him until he was a junior, and make sure he was ready for the spot light. But, we didn’t know any better.”

At one point, Gabe was ranked No. 93 in the nation among recruits.

During his sophomore year, Gabe’s fast ball started to drop down to the lower 80s, and it wasn’t until late, that they realized that was the case.

“By the time we got to May, he was throwing 80-81 in front of LSU,” Russell said. “Immediately, everybody thought was what was wrong with his arm. He knew how to pitch, so nobody could tell what was going on with him.”

After a showcase in Tampa, Fla., and short meeting with a coach later, Russell and Gabe found the solution — changing his work out routine.

“We stopped in Montgomery and got weights,” Russell said after the event. “By midnight, he had it together.”

Gabe then took a break from going to anymore showcases, and by August, he was invited to a showcase in Tallahassee for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.

“When he got up on the mound, he was throwing 89 (miles per hour),” Russell said.

During some weekends, Gabe can be found on the mound, pitching for the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers Prep Scout teams.

Football runs in the family

Gabe’s father played football at Straughn High School from 1983-1986. In his senior season, Russell rushed for 2,200 yards at running back, a position he was given by former Tigers coach Steven Tucker.

“I played everything from football, basketball, tennis, track,” he said. “Football was my best sport. In other sports, I was just an average Joe in that.”

Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of Russell’s high school Football rushing record he broke in 1986 when he finished the season with 2,200 yards. In his last game against Coffee Springs, where he had for 339 yards on 72 carries.

Russell said he got to be the running back for the team when the Tigers’ former coach asked him to run against the first-string defense at practice one day.

“At the end of practice, we were sitting in a circle, and he said ‘we’re going down to Freeport, and we’re going to win because we had a secret weapon,'” Russell said. “‘Russell Gunter’s going to be running the football for us on Friday night.’ I had 170 yards rushing. That was our first win, and the season started to turn around.”

When each were children, Russell and Gabe played in the same peewee football league in the county. Currently, Russell is serving as the league’s president, a post he’s held since 2002.