Chad Kuhl’s first experience playing baseball was hitting a ball off a tee at Canal Little League when he was 5 years old.
"I loved hitting," the recent Middletown graduate said.
Kuhl was recently named the state’s player of the year by the Delaware Baseball Coaches Association after being selected first-team all-state as a pitcher and first baseman.
"I was surprised I won the award because there are so many talented players," the modest, soft-spoken Kuhl said. "I give my catcher, Julius Ryland, a lot of the credit. He is great behind the plate because he blocks basically everything back there and keeps the runners at their base, and if they take off trying to steal he will throw them out."
Kuhl, a 6-foot-3 right-hander, was 9-2 with a 1.47 ERA while leading the Cavaliers (16-2) to the Blue Hen Flight A Conference title. He also pitched a gem in the first round of the state tournament, which ended up being Middletown's only win.
And now, the multi-dimensional Bear resident will take his talents to the next level, and conveniently right down the street from the Canal field where he first fell in love with the game, to the University of Delaware.
"I chose Delaware because it’s close to home and has great educational programs," said Kuhl, who plans to major in history and hopes to someday teach and coach baseball.
"We are excited about Chad becoming a part of our program," Blue Hen coach Jim Sherman said in an e-mail. "He's recognized as one of the top pitchers in the state and has all the qualities of becoming a very good college pitcher."
Although it’s his arm that interested the Blue Hens and several other colleges, his high school coach, Scott Smith, says they shouldn’t look past his ability as a hitter.
"I told them (UD’s coaching staff) he can be a solid player at the plate at the college level," said Smith, who was an infielder for the Blue Hens in the early 1990s.
Kuhl, who hit .433 with eight homers while batting clean-up for the Cavs, says he is confident he has the ability to hit at the next level and hopes to have a chance to prove it. But for now, he’s content knowing that his first priority at Delaware is to pitch, something that is in his genes.
"My older brother and my father were both pitchers," Kuhl said. "My brother pitched in college at Cecil Community and Wilmington University, and so he was a big influence on me."
A player’s high school coach usually has a good gauge on just how successful one of his players can be at the next level, and Smith is no different: "Because of Chad's work ethic and his ability to learn and be coached, he will fare very well at UD. I know coach Sherman is very excited to have someone of Chad's caliber come to UD. He is looking forward to working with him as a pitcher and refining some of the pitches that Chad and (Middletown pitching coach) Dave Hitchens have worked hard on the past few years."
Smith also knows firsthand how well Kuhl handles adversity, and just as importantly, his willingness to be coached, having come to the Middletown program already loaded with the skills necessary to succeed.
"I knew when I saw Chad at my summer baseball camp when he was in eighth grade that we had a special player coming to Middletown," Smith added. "He had all the tools in place to become a very good high school player. He worked very hard during his high school career to reach the level he is at today.
"He is one of the most coachable players we have ever had come through our program. He is an extreme competitor who has a deep hatred for losing. His approach to every practice and every game is the same: He works as hard as he can to get the most out of his ability. That is my ultimate goal for any player who comes through our program."
Kuhl will spend the summer playing American Legion ball before heading to the UD campus in the fall, where he knows the pressure to perform will be greater than he’s ever experienced before.
"Pitching in big, important games in high school and being in those pressure situations has prepared me for the next level and has taught me how to keep my composure and poise no matter what."
All-State Baseball Team
Pitchers – Chad Kuhl (sr., Middletown), Jamie Treml (sr., Hodgson)
Catcher – Jake Milstead (jr., Newark)
First base – Chad Kuhl (sr., Middletown)
Second base – Matt Fabi (jr., Polytech), Connor Ashbee (jr., Hodgson)
Third base – Nick Hainsworth (so., St. Georges), Mitchell Moore (so., Dover)
Shortstop – James Wilson (sr., St. Mark’s)
Outfield – Chris Doherty (jr., St. Elizabeth), Jerrell Allen (jr., Milford), Jamie Treml (sr., Hodgson)
Utility – Taylor Mahoney (jr., St. Mark’s), Designated hitter - Jack Donnelly (jr., Archmere)
Coach – Tom Beddow (St. Elizabeth)
Assistant coach – Joe DeGregory (Newark)
Newark High School swimmer Rachel Ward won a gold and three silver medals at the 40th annual Special Olympics Delaware Summer Games. … Kevin Turner resigned as baseball coach at Dover High after leading the Senators to the quarterfinals of the state tournament. The 39-year-old, who coached for five seasons, is stepping down to pursue a career as an administrator. … The annual Blue-Gold All-Star Football Game, which features the state’s top seniors, will be played Saturday night at 7 at Delaware Stadium.
Jon Buzby is the sports columnist for the Newark Post, a freelance writer, and occasional color commentator for the 1290 AM The Ticket High School Football Game of the Week. You can reach him at email@example.com.