Trevor Gretzky doesn’t shy away from his last name or the extra attention that comes with being the son of The Great One.
“I respect the name he built for our family and I want to represent him by playing the game well and playing it hard,” Gretzky said.
But that doesn’t mean he’s not out to make a name for himself, either.
Gretzky, 20, is entering his first season with the Boise Hawks after spending the 2012 season with the Chicago Cubs’ Rookie League affiliate in Arizona. Gretzky was drafted in the seventh round of the 2011 draft out of high school and spurned a scholarship offer from San Diego State and coach Tony Gwynn to sign with the Cubs for $350,000.
Wayne Gretzky was going to let his three sons play whatever sport they wanted growing up. But when he was traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings on August 9, 1988, The Great One may have made the decision for his future family.
“He probably would have been more heavily into hockey had we been living in Toronto or Edmonton,” Wayne Gretzky said. “The practicality was, (in Los Angeles) you could go to a baseball field any day, any afternoon.”
Gretzky played eight seasons for the Kings and relocated his family back to Los Angeles when he retired from the NHL in 1999. But with Southern California not exactly serving as a hotbed for hockey, Trevor began playing football and baseball.
“The closest rink to our house was like an hour away,” said Trevor Gretzky, who was born in 1992.
That wouldn’t have stopped Trevor had he wanted to play hockey. But he didn’t, and his father wasn’t about to put any pressure on him to follow in his footsteps.
“Ever since I was a little kid he wanted me to do my own thing,” Trevor said. “He always helped me at practice and stuff, but he didn’t want to be hands-on. He wanted to let me be me.”
So with that, Gretzky’s baseball career was born. And despite finishing his career as the greatest player in NHL history, Wayne was perfectly fine with his son going in a different direction. As it turns out, he was a pretty big baseball fan, too.
“I grew up a big Detroit Tigers fan as a kid and then the Blue Jays came to Toronto in ‘76, and they sort of took over our country with the Expos,” Wayne said. “I just always really enjoyed the game and got to play a lot as a kid. As much as I loved hockey, as a child I probably enjoyed playing the game of baseball even more than hockey.”
Trevor calls his dad “a baseball nut” and said he learned to love the game from both him and his grandfather while growing up. Wayne played shortstop as a kid.
“He was good, from what he told me,” Trevor jokes.
The third of five children — three boys and two girls — Trevor Gretzky hit .393 as a senior at Oaks Christian High School in Los Angeles in 2011. A partially torn labrum limited him to one home run but he still managed 27 RBIs in 31 games.
But the 6-foot-4, 180-pounder was seen as a project by most draft experts and he stunned even Baseball America when he signed with the Cubs and elected not to develop at San Diego State.
Said Baseball America in their pre-draft evaluation: “Gretzky has plenty of holes in his swing, and his feel for hitting needs to improve. But he does have a power projection and natural hand-eye coordination. He’s a poor runner who has a long way to go defensively at first base, and he’s likely to wind up at San Diego State.”
Gretzky had surgery to fix his shoulder shortly after the Cubs drafted him and the two sides agreed on a deal later that summer. He spent the rest of 2011 rehabbing and made his professional debut with the Cubs’ Rookie League affiliate last year. He hit .304 in 35 games but had only two extra-base hits — one double and one triple — in 115 at-bats.
The lack of power was attributed by some to the lack of strength in his shoulder following the surgery. Some, including Hawks manager Gary Van Tol, expect the power to return this year now that he’s fully recovered. He figures to play both first base and left field for the Hawks.
But no matter what Gretzky does in Boise this summer or for the rest of his career, he’ll never fully be able to come out of his dad’s shadow. Wayne still leads the all-time NHL ranks in goals, assists and points. And Trevor will always be known as Wayne’s son.
“He’s grown up with it, he understands it,” Wayne said. “There’s a lot of opportunity that comes with the name, but with opportunity comes different twists that unfortunately are bestowed on the children that’s probably not fair to them. But if you ask them, the good probably outweighs the negatives.
“They sort of have to live with that and that’s just how it is. He handles it very well. He’s a good young man. He’s a great athlete but most importantly he’s a solid, good young man and that’s what’s important in life.”
Trevor realizes that expectations are raised because of his last name. Asked if he’s ever done an interview without being asked about his father, he laughed and said, “I don’t think so. Maybe one or two, but usually he comes up.”
“It comes with it, but you can’t really complain about it,” Trevor added. “I just go out and play. You don’t really think about it while you’re playing.
“I never thought about making a name for myself. I just loved playing baseball and wanted to play with my friends. It’s like a love of the game type thing.”
The Gretzky family lives in Coeur d’Alene during the summer and Wayne said he can’t wait to make the 30-minute drive to Spokane to see Trevor and the Hawks play next weekend. He’s also planning to make the trip to Boise in the near future.
As Trevor looks to jumpstart his baseball career, he’s not shying away from his last name. He embraces it. And his dad will be there in the stands to enjoy the ride.
“He’s just like any other dad, he’s nothing special,” Trevor said. “Well, obviously, he’s a little special, but he’s just like any other dad. He comes out here, he loves baseball and loves watching me play.”
And that’s all that matters to Trevor.