David DiPasqua, Jr., Monday, February 9th, 2015
Marple Newtown alum Chris Kirsch took full advantage of his opportunities during his senior year of high school in 2010, showcasing his talents on the mound and at the plate.
The southpaw became a force to be reckoned with in the Central League, dominating the opposition while attracting scouts’ attention at the collegiate and professional level.
One specific game that remains with Kirsch today was the showdown with Conestoga, delivering a phenomenal performance where he belted a home run and shutdown the Pioneers’ on the mound to propel the Tigers to a 12-2 victory.
Kirsch emphasized the importance Coach Balk played in his development. “Without him I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now. He guided me through my senior season.”
Once his high school career concluded, Kirsch was fortunate enough to be drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 13th round, officially selected 387th overall.
Even though he decided not to sign the contract with Pittsburgh, Kirsch holds this experience as a cherished memory as it was his introduction to the major league draft.
Instead Kirsch headed to Lackawanna, a junior college located in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
During his first season with the Falcons, it was made clear that he had much to learn at the next level.
The lefty elected to stay in school for one more season and pass up being drafted once again. This time it was the St. Louis Cardinals who selected him in the 21st round (650th overall).
Originally this was not the plan coming out of high school. Kirsch pointed out that he “went in there with a mindset, I’m there for a year and I’m out.” Later he came to the realization that he needed more than one year to mature and learn the ins and outs.
Heading into his sophomore campaign, expectations were high for both Kirsch and his team. Their goal was set on the World Series.
Staying the extra season proved to be a wise decision as both goals were achieved in the 2012 season.
Kirsch tore up the league, earning the Region’s Player of the Year while also obtaining First Team honors. The statistics speak for themselves, as the Lackawanna website showcases Kirsch’s success, finishing with a 10-1 record, 107 strikeouts in 75 innings, and a minuscule 1.92 ERA.
Other than Kirsch’s individual success, the Falcons’ reached their goal of attending the NJCAA Division II World Series.
He views both as accomplishments because it was the first time in school history that the team made it that far in the postseason.
From this point, it was down between going professional or attending Virginia Commonwealth University to prolong his collegiate career.
Being selected in a third consecutive draft, Kirsch elected to sign with the Tampa Bay Rays who took him in the 14th round, winding up 452nd overall.
Coach Pensak played a significant role in his development over the two years as well, recalling how “he instilled a work ethic in me and gave me that drive I carry with me now.”
This was the moment where Kirsch realized he was ready to play pro ball.
Collegiate athletics were now in the rear view mirror, it was time to go be a professional.
Continuing to learn the game and adapt is a major concept that has allowed Kirsch to improve his game as a starting pitcher in the farm system. Back at Marple Newtown he was the pitcher with a big arm that threw past batters, consistently hitting between 86-88 miles per hour on the radar.
There was a learning curve, but over time Kirsch adjusted and now has a variety of different pitches in his arsenal.
Throwing heat is simply not enough for the big southpaw, so in addition to a fastball that ranges from 90-95 on the gun he has incorporated a split change-up, a slider, and a curve to keep hitters off-balance.
Injuries are a part of the game too, as he looked to bounce back after rookie ball and hip surgery in order to “put it all together.”
One of the most challenging responsibilities of being an athlete is the lifestyle and pressure that comes along with the profession.
This lifestyle shapes the persona of a player with diets, workouts, and baseball workouts that occur on a daily basis.
For the most part, baseball season ends in the middle of September for players. There is a three or four week layoff that provides these athletes with time to relax, before returning back to the grind for the next season.
“The most challenging thing I have to deal with is the pressure of the game. There’s so much mentally that goes in a player’s head that no fan knows, unless they are out there with you playing the game. When you are on that that mound, you control the game and you are responsible for what happens. But through my career so far, I have been able to deal with it just fine,” Kirsch remarked.
There are plenty of advantages to playing the game as well, “traveling the world playing the game you love.” Being able to see countless venues is certainly something to remember, witnessing different atmospheres around the country.
His personal favorite was Bowling Green, Kentucky where he recently played last season compared to his least preferred location in Beloit, Wisconsin due to the minimal amount of things to do or see.
The Marple Newtown grad reflects on his unique experiences.
“In the past five years, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot about the game of baseball and I will continue too as I go. The whole journey through minor league baseball has been a dream come true. Playing baseball for a living comes along with so many different life lessons that most people never get to experience.”
Whether it is his ritual of arriving two hours early to the stadium before game time or off-season training, Kirsch stressed the importance of working hard and never giving up on a dream.
Through everything he has faced in his life, Chris’ biggest fans are his parents. At every level he has played, his parents have traveled to various stadiums and showed their support to help him succeed.
Currently, Chris Kirsch is preparing for spring training in the Tampa Bay Rays’ organization after completing last season with the Bowling Green Hot Rods (Class A) in Kentucky.
The future appears to be bright for the 23-year-old native from Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.