Matthew Gula Continues Astounding Baseball Career through College


courtesy of Mike Gula

Matthew Gula ’22 was scouted by Odessa College and received a full scholarship to attend the school. Photo Courtesy of Mike Gula

The electrified buzz of a college crowd filled the air of the baseball diamond, but the mood quickly changed to one of uncertainty as an unfamiliar high school player stepped up to bat for the first time. Murmurs of ‘who is this kid’ circulated the stands; a high schooler playing for a college team was unprecedented, and success seemed nearly impossible. One mistake, and it could all come to an end. For Matthew Gula ‘22, however, this trip to home plate would be the start of something great, and propel him towards his college dreams.

Ever since he was little, Matthew Gula knew he wanted to play baseball, but that dream felt far-fetched until recently. Through hard work and determination, he made his way to the varsity team at Westwood his freshman year and is now team captain. At Westwood, Matthew hit three grand slams in one week in his 2021 season and 20 home runs in the last four playing seasons. Three years later, as a junior, he got to play in a college-level game for Odessa College where he surpassed the performance of even some college players. Right then and there, he was offered a full-ride scholarship to Odessa where he will be a starter for the Wranglers next season. 

“I started playing baseball when I was four,” Gula said. “High school has been a journey, especially with growing as a person. I have definitely matured over the years through it.”

Matthew’s journey has progressed from Town and Country baseball and playing select with the Houston Banditos to being named Texas D1 High School player of the Week and being recognized by the Texas HS Coaches Magazine as 6th best Home Run hitter compared to 3,420 6a players. 

Matthew has never been alone in his journey as he has always received support from his father Mike, and brother, Jackson Gula ’24, who is now playing on the same team as him at Westwood. For three consecutive summers, Mr. Gula accompanied Matt to play in highly competitive tournaments from Arizona to Florida to Virginia with the Houston Banditos, one of the best-known select teams in the US. 

“It’s pretty cool to play with him,” Jackson said. “We always want to be better than each other, [but] it’s not as much as a rivalry: it’s healthy competition.”

Matthew’s dad, Mike Gula, the long-term debate substitute teacher, has also played a major role in both of the Gula brothers’ baseball careers.

“He has been there for me at my lowest points in baseball,” Gula said. “He has taken me everywhere. Last year was rough at the end of the year, and he was the only one who kept me going. He has always been there.”

“My dad has literally done everything,” Jackson said. “Without our dad, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

His father’s unmatched support was demonstrated when he accompanied his son to countless tournaments with the Banditos, where eventually at one game, he was discovered by the Odessa coach and invited to come to meet the team in Odessa.

“After the game was over, the coach came down and talked to the Banditos coach and said ‘I’d like to have him come up to Odessa and see what he could do with the college team,’” Mr. Gula said. “So, he called Matthew and asked him if he would like to come up to Odessa and ‘play catch with the guys.’”

Matthew and his dad did just that. They made the seven-hour drive up to Odessa, Texas where, to their surprise, they found out Matthew wasn’t just there to “play catch with the guys.” He was there to play an actual college-level game against the University of New Mexico.

“So everybody’s getting ready for the game to start,” Mr. Gula said. “New Mexico bats first, so the Odessa team goes out to the field, and who do I see? Matthew goes out to third base, starting, and I said, ‘Oh my god’, what are they doing, [having] a high school kid playing against these college kids.”

For most high school students, a chance to play in a college-level game would be the most nerve-racking experience, but Matthew was cool, calm, and collected.

“Matthew gets into the batter’s box,” Mr. Gula said. “He swings at the first pitch and he missed it. New Mexico saw the swing so he moves his infielder more towards third base. Matthew looked at his coach, looked at the other coach, and he looks at the shortstop, [the other] guy throws the next pitch and Matthew hit a ball smack up the middle.” 

That was the start of Matthew’s incredible game. Not only did he score two runs through baserunning, Matthew, a junior at the time, hit a 390-foot home run against a college-level pitcher, who was pitching over 90 miles per hour. The rest is history.

“New Mexico brings a pitcher in,” Mr. Gula said. “The kid was a big guy, he was maybe 6’3”, 6’4”, just throwing bbs in the dugout, so I didn’t keep my camera up because I didn’t think he was going to be able to hit this guy.”

Then came the clincher. In the seventh inning, NM brought in a big relief pitcher, and Matthew was the lead-off batter. It seems he remembered what his dad had coached him to do in situations like this: “hit the first fastball you see.” On the first pitch, Matt swung at a 93 mph fastball and hit a 390-foot blast over the left center field wall for a home fun. As Matt crossed the plate, the entire team and all the coaches rushed onto the field to meet him.   

At that moment, the Odessa coach stopped the game and offered Matthew a full ride to Odessa College, where he will play ball with the Odessa Wranglers and, with the coach’s mentorship, work toward placement on a D1 team.

“First pitch, he hit the ball just to the left of the 400-foot sign for a home run and then he goes into the dugout.  His head coach comes out, shakes his hand, it wasn’t ten seconds later, Matthew comes out with the coach,” Mr. Gula said. “He waves me down, we walk into the coach’s office and he says, ‘Matthew, I’m offering you a scholarship right now’.”

A scholarship was everything Matthew worked toward his entire life, and he finally got one.

“He’s been working at this for a while,” Jackson said. “Him getting a scholarship is pretty cool.”

In his last year at Westwood Matthew continues to perform at the highest level. He had a .688 batting average through six games in the span of just one week. His incredible play has not gone unnoticed, and now, his career can get started.

“I think [junior college] is going to be fun,” Gula said. “You build bonds with players that you meet from all over the country. It’s probably one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done.”