KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Former Gardner-Edgerton Trailblazer John Means pitched a no-hitter Wednesday afternoon in Baltimore’s 6-0 win over Seattle. It’s the first time an Oriole has pitched a no-hitter since Jim Palmer in 1969.
It’s a great end to a long journey for Means who went to Ft. Scott Community College and then West Virginia. After college, he was selected in the 11th round of the draft and worked his way through the minors.
“It’s unbelievable, felt OK all game. I didn’t really have the change-up until the end, and I’m glad I got it going,” Means said Wednesday.
It was a special moment for Means, who lost his father due to pancreatic cancer in 2020. Means pitches every game with Alan’s initials “AM” inscribed on his glove.
“My wife, my kid, my mom, and I know my dad was there today. Back there telling me what to throw,” he said.
His high school coach, Jerald VanRheen, started coaching John his junior year along with his fall team. He remembers Means as a kid who didn’t get all the attention and flew under the radar — but also knew he had potential to be successful
“His journey is a remarkable story,” VanRheen said. “He could have gone somewhere else other than Ft. Scott but he recognized he still needed to develop. He wanted to go to Ft. Scott. Goes to Cape Cod and gets picked up by West Virginia.”
VanRheen said Means was always overlooked but knew he had the work ethic to work his way up, later named American League All-Star in 2019 and now this no-hitter.
“He’s not the one that sticks out and says, ‘Wow he’s a stud.’ He just works really, really hard,” VanRheen said. “It always seems like he’s the last one chosen. To go from that to AL All-Star, to doing what he’s doing now, it’s phenomenal.”
“Nobody could ever predict what he’s doing right now. You can predict he’s a rookie that would go to the All-Star game. That he would have a 1.7 ERA. He’s so focused and he works hard. I’m extremely happy for the kid.”
VanRheen recalled that Means was pitching in the Olathe area but his parents bought a house in the Gardner-Edgerton district after discovering VanRheen would offer Means the opportunity to be the 3-hole hitter and the second starting pitcher for the Trailblazers.
“His mom and dad are awesome people. They tried to give John and Jake every opportunity to be successful,” VanRheen said. “When he found out he was wanted, that kid couldn’t fit his smile through the front door. They were the set of parents that would do anything for their kids. I’m sure Alan was watching today and has a big smile on his face.”
Means father, Alan, loved baseball.
“He was a baseball fan, a knowledgeable man. Alan was the guy that knew all the talented kids in the area,” VanRheen said. “He was super in tune with what was going on in amateur baseball. I could learn stuff from listening to Alan.”
VanRheen also coached Bubba Starling, who is currently playing in Omaha in the Royals organization; John’s brother, Jake, is also in the Royals organization, with the Columbia Fireflies.
The Gardner-Edgerton coach said he’ll always treasure when Means gave him an All-Star ball signed by the players in the game.
“You want kids to do what they want to and be successful at what they’re doing, so I just couldn’t be prouder.”