The Call That Launched a Home Run King: How Zack Gelof Led His Brother to UVA

May 31, 2023 By Andrew Ramspacher, Andrew Ramspacher,

It was early summer 2019 and Zack Gelof, coming off an impressive first season in a University of Virginia baseball uniform, caught wind of a talented prospect who had reopened his college recruitment after withdrawing his commitment to another school.

The player, once thought to be undersized for a program of Virginia’s caliber, had started to add some muscle. A sturdier frame combined with an aggressive swing and eye-popping numbers to back it up – batting .571 as a sophomore on a state championship-winning high school team – further sold Gelof on the prospect’s potential to help the Cavaliers.

Gelof, confident that his opinion was valued around Disharoon Park after starting all 56 games as a freshman, called UVA head coach Brian O’Connor to make sure – in the very least – Jake Gelof, Zack’s little brother, was on the Wahoos’ radar.

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“Zack was in no way telling me that we should definitely take him,” O’Connor said. “He just wanted to talk to me about his brother and how good of a player he thought he was, and that the way Jake went about his business was in line with our baseball program.”

Zack Gelof on third base

As a Cavalier, Zack Gelof was an All-ACC third baseman who started all 137 possible games in his career. He’s now one of the Oakland Athletics’ top minor-league prospects. (UVA Athletics photo)

Jake Gelof, once committed to play for the College of William & Mary, eventually received a scholarship offer from O’Connor and UVA. He pledged his allegiance to the Wahoos on Aug. 8, 2019, and the rest is literally history.

The top-seeded Hoos begin their national championship quest at noon, Friday, when they host Army at Disharoon Park in the NCAA Charlottesville Regional. They’re two rounds away from a second trip to the College World Series in three years – a feat that, if accomplished, would put a fitting bow on an all-time career.

In likely his final season with the Cavaliers, Jake Gelof, a junior and projected high Major League Baseball draft pick, has set several school records, including the mark for most career home runs.

He launched No. 38, the homer that moved him past E.J. Anderson atop Virginia’s all-time list, on April 11 during the fifth inning of the Hoos’ 18-0 home win over the University of Richmond.

Zack Gelof, while preparing for his own game with the Las Vegas Aviators, a minor-league affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, brought his phone to the dugout that afternoon in Nevada. If his brother made history, he wanted to see it live.

“I was just super happy and laughing,” Zack said of his reaction to watching Jake’s record-breaker. “It was pure excitement for him.”

Zack has long been his brother’s biggest supporter. Jake, an All-American third baseman, may now be one of college baseball’s best players, but Zack remembers him as “the little guy who always wanted to show he could hang with the older kids.”

The siblings, two years apart, were paired on the same travel teams growing up in Delaware, meaning Jake regularly played with and against older, more physically advanced company.

This dynamic, Zack said, is where Jake developed his tendency to swing big.

“He got this chip on his shoulder to where he wanted to hit homers and go for the fences,” Zack said. “That’s still evident to this day, which is awesome.”

Jake’s rise to UVA home run king has been a relative sprint.

Jake Gelof mid swing on the baseball field

After only four home runs as a freshman, Jake Gelof became UVA’s all-time home run leader in game No. 33 of his junior season. (UVA Athletics photo)

His first homer didn’t come until May 28, 2021, in an Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament game against the University of Notre Dame. His second-inning blast over the wall at Truist Field in Charlotte was replicated three frames later by Zack, making the Gelofs the first UVA brother tandem to homer in the same game in 19 years.

Jake and Zack one-upped themselves in the ensuing NCAA Tournament, when they each homered in the same inning of a regional game against the University of South Carolina.

Jake carried the momentum from the end of his freshman season – a campaign that ended in the College World Series for the Cavaliers – into a banner sophomore year in which he led the country in home runs for a three-week stretch and finished with 21 homers and a then-school-record 81 RBIs.

With at least two games left to play this season, he’s been even better. The first-team All-ACC selection has 22 home runs – tied for the most ever by a Hoo in a single season – and 84 RBI, breaking his own record. He’s also batting .333 with 20 doubles.

Ride Like A Cavalier, UVA License Plates Are Available from the Virginia DMV
Ride Like A Cavalier, UVA License Plates Are Available from the Virginia DMV

“Growing up, through high school, I always thought he had a lot of power that people were kind of missing out on,” said Zack, who left UVA after being taken in the second round of the 2021 draft and is now among Oakland’s top-rated prospects. “Even in the recruitment process, I had to say something to [O’Connor] when Jake’s recruitment opened up again. I had to put my word out there.”

O’Connor is forever grateful that he did.

“It made it pretty easy for us to make the decision to offer Jake an opportunity to come here,” O’Connor said. “Because Zack, being in our program, knew and understood what the level of expectation is in our program. And he absolutely believed that his brother had the ability to do it.”

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Andrew Ramspacher

University News Associate University Communications