Auburn native Gavin Bates pitches for Iona College against the University of Tennessee in February, his first appearance since rupturing an Achilles tendon in August. Bates will return to the Gaels for a fifth season of college baseball next year. Danny Parker

Gavin Bates transferred to Kents Hill School after his sophomore year at St. Dominic Academy to help his post-high school hockey career.

Seven years later, Bates is preparing for his fifth year of college baseball and his third at Iona College.

Bates played hockey and baseball at Kents Hill, repeated his sophomore year, then in the summer between his junior and senior years he joined the Portland-based Maine Lightning travel baseball team. While playing for the Lightning, Bates started to get attention from college baseball coaches. 

The Auburn native changed tracks to focus on baseball and attended the University of Dayton in Ohio to play baseball for the Flyers, an NCAA Division I squad.

After two seasons, Bates decided to transfer to Iona College (New Rochelle, New York) in hopes of getting more playing time. He has played off and on for the Gaels over the past two years as he’s battled COVID-19 and a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Just recently, Bates, a pitcher, decided to stay for a fifth year of college baseball while he finishes his degree.


“I do love Iona, it’s a cool spot, but I just grew up wanting to play baseball, and I never had a real opportunity with COVID and injuries,” Bates, who is playing summer baseball in Tennessee, said. “I have my opportunity, this last year, to get on the field as a competitor and I really want to do that.”

After rupturing his right Achilles in August 2021, Bates returned to action for Iona’s game against the University of Tennessee on Feb. 27. Bates pitched an inning, walking two batters and striking out two. Bates’ return to the mound was relatively quick for a ruptured Achilles because it was on his push-off leg and not his landing leg.

Bates, a right-handed reliever, made 14 appearances during the season, going 0-3 while giving up nine earned runs and striking out 24 batters.

While 2022 the season didn’t go the way he had planned, Bates is healthy and excited for his final season with the Gaels.

“My game has progressed, but not really the way I’ve wanted it to,” Bates said. “As soon as I left Dayton, a bunch of things happened. I had COVID, then it was injury after injury, and it kind of sidelined me for a long time. …The coaching staff at Iona, you have a smaller program, so they can work with everyone. They instilled confidence in me … just in the way they worked with me, spending time during practice, going over video.”

Bates said he plans to take on more of a leadership role for Iona, which went 6-41 this past season, in his final year of college baseball.


“Myself and a few seniors, I think we’ll put the program in a better spot,” Bates said. “Expectations aren’t always met, but the coaching staff we have, the talent, if we put in the work and do what we need to do, we should have a better season.”

This summer, Bates is playing for the Tennessee-based Johnson City Doughboys of the Appalachian League. 

From 1963 to 2020, the Appalachian League was a rookie-level league in Major League Baseball’s minor league system. After the 2020 season, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league was converted into a summer college baseball league.

Gavin Bates, an Auburn native who played at St. Dominic Academy, is returning for a fifth season of college baseball next year. He currently is playing summer baseball for the Tennessee-based Johnson City Doughboys of the Appalachian League. Iona athletics photo

“The guys are cool, the staff is awesome, and they take care of their players,” Bates said. “It’s a cool league and there’s a lot of talent. They handle it all professionally, and so it feels like you’re in the pros. It’s a busy schedule, but it’s a look for the guys that want to play pro ball that this is what it’ll look like, so it’s a cool feeling.”

Bates, who is working toward a degree in communications, counts himself among those who want to keep playing after college.

“I would love to play baseball after Iona,” Bates said. “You have to just keep playing and see what happens. I also want to finish my degree, so it’s something you can’t think about. It’s like going into a college sport, you’re never on the team until you’re on the roster and there in person. Even when you are, there are so many things that can change. If I get the opportunity to play professional baseball, then I will definitely take my crack at it and see how far I can run with it.”

Until then, Bates is excited to help Iona grow and improve during his senior season. He’s excited about the coaching staff and the players are talented and motivated.

“We have guys that want to be there and have that core that wants to help,” Bates said. “We don’t want to have another bad season. Going into your fifth year and putting it all out there, just work — it’s exciting. Just playing baseball with your best friends and doing it for a good reason.

“We can leave the program better than we found it, and that’s a really good feeling for me.”

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