It’s pretty rare for a minor league pitcher to develop and perfect his craft, just a short drive from where they grew up. Kane County Cougars hurler Ian Krol, the 16th ranked prospect in the Oakland Athletics system is one of those rare cases. He has the advantage of numerous family and friends supporting him at his games.
The Naperville, IL native grew up going to Cougars games and even got to throw out the first ball at a game for a 9th birthday present.
He was a 7th round draft choice, but should have been taken much much higher. His draft stock fell because he got caught in violation of some bulls** alcohol policy Neuqua Valley high school has (he was never legally charged with anything in relation to the incident) and the school board arbitrarily suspended him for senior year. Having a “legal issue” on his “permanent record” temporarily hurt his career.
By Paul M. Banks
However, he still had a really impressive prep career, going 8-1 with a 1.22 ERA his sophomore year; helping Neuqua Valley win the state title; and 9-1 with a 0.98 era his junior campaign.
Krol grew up a huge Chicago Cubs fan, and his opportunity to pitch in Wrigley Field for the “Road to Wrigley” game was a huge deal.
“I love Chicago, I love this town, I love this field, I’m just a Cubs fan overall,” he said after the game; one that he started for the Cougars. It wasn’t as awful outing on his part, but it was far from his best.
“I’m going to learn from my mistakes today, pretty much wasn’t looking at the runner on second when Hak-Ju Lee stole third base. Jimmy Escalanate, my pitching coach, told me you didn’t even look at the runner,” Krol said.
He knows what he needs to work on to get to the next level, and he’s very glib in expressing those truths.
“I need to slow myself down when I’m picking over to first, cuz this is the second time I’ve thrown the ball away and let an extra base go by. I’m working on plenty of things, especially location- that’s what I’m going to work on the most,” Krol said.
He reminds me of myself in being way too hard on himself most of the time.
“On paper it (his season so far) has been pretty good. I did everything I could to put myself in this position with offseason working. I was expecting big things out of me this season, and I always have high expectaitons of myself,” he said.
He recently had a hot stretch where he had a phenomenal strikeout to walk ratio, so I asked him what’s been the key having better control?
“Three games in a row I’ve been able to set myself all over again and throw that first pitch strike when I’ve fallen behind 3-0 on a batter. You find your arm slot, and you throw a BP fastball right down the middle- because you know they’re taking that pitch! After that one, it seems like a piece of cake, because you got your arm slot back,” he responded.
Here’s what his Manager, Aaron “Nuke” Nieckula had to say about his 6’1″ 170 pound, 19-year-old hurler:
“He’s a crafty left-hander, throws about 88, maybe 90-91. Commands the zone, likes to work inside with some off-speed pitches, but something about Ian Krol is his mentality, you can give him the ball and once he steps over the white line, he’s a fierce competitor, great mindset on the mound.”
Krol is working on an 85 pitch limit this season. Lefties are hitting .182 against him while righties are at .213. We could see him in the bigs by 2012.
Paul M. Banks is President and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank and @bigtenguru