Six weeks ago, Chris Kirsch wasn’t even a blip on anyone’s radar, let alone having a radar gun pointed at him. The rather lanky 6-foot-3, 185-pound Marple Newtown (Newtown Square, Pa.) senior left-hander was nowhere, looking to finish off his senior year with some fun.
What’s happened in the last three weeks has completely been unexpected. He’s been hit with a tsunami of attention. Now Major League scouts call his home — a dozen of them. Schools that didn’t even know he existed are offering scholarships.
Every game is filled with scouts behind the backstop holding up radar guns, pointed up at every pitch. He’s gone from a curiosity to a bona fide Major League prospect. Marple Newtown athletic director Dennis Reardon has received calls from the Yankees, Phillies, Mets, Red Sox, Diamondbacks, Orioles and Royals, just to name a handful. Kirsch has had questionnaires sent to his home from the Pirates, Rangers, Blue Jays, Padres and Giants.
No one really knew Kirsch until about a month ago.
"These teams call our offices and a lot of them ask the same thing: ‘Why haven’t I heard about this kid before?' " Reardon said. "For one, Chris has grown a lot these last two years. Another is that he’s really matured the last 18 months off the field. The scary thing is his glass is only half-filled, in regards to his baseball ability."
Kirsch is 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA, with two unearned runs. He’s averaging between 87-89 mph and he’s touched 90 mph a few times. He’s thrown 24 strikeouts in 15 innings. The Tigers are 10-0 overall, one of the best teams in Southeastern Pennsylvania, advancing to the PIAA Class AAA state championship game three years ago.
"I never saw this coming. I would always hope, but I never saw it coming," said Kirsch, who’s receiving interest from nationally ranked Coastal Carolina, along with Temple, Villanova, North Carolina State, Maryland and Virginia Commonwealth.
It’s helped growing six inches between his sophomore and junior years. It’s also helped having his delivery smoothed out by local coaching legend Jim Balk, and Kirsch’s family has received sound guidance from adviser Jeff Randazzo, who is a baseball agent.
Another big reason for Kirsch’s transformation is his academics. A sore area in the past, poor grades are what kept Kirsch off the field, having to come on his junior year after missing the first month of the season.
"I have myself to blame for that," Kirsch admits. "That’s all on me. I didn’t realize what I had, until very recently. I realized how good I could be, and that I have to work a lot harder at everything. I don’t think I pushed myself as hard as I could have. It was a little scary, actually. All my friends were going off to college. I really had no path, and then all this comes along."
Kirsch has Balk and Randazzo to credit for where things are. They got on the phones and called local scouts and birddogs, who then contacted some teams they knew. But first, Kirsch had to show them he was worthy of that kind of attention — that he is a legitimate prospect.
"I’m trying to be the same person I was six weeks ago," Kirsch said. "I try to ignore the guns behind home plate. I think it’s worked for me so far."
Kirsch has developed a high leg kick, adding more velocity on his fastball. He already had a pretty curveball, a grip he plans on keeping a secret. He’s working on a change-up, which is starting to become more accurate. Mostly, Major League scouts are looking at Kirsch’s projectable 6-3 frame, the kind of build that can add about 20 to 25 pounds of muscle, and possibly another 8 or 10 mph on his fastball.
There’s another thing: Kirsch hasn’t stopped growing. He could possibly grow another two inches.
From June 7-9, Major League Baseball will be holding its annual draft, and Kirsch will be somewhere near a phone during those three days. He’s getting feedback that he could go anywhere between the fifth and 10th rounds. He’s also working on freeing his schedule to make college visits.
The last three weeks have been like a whole new world for him.
"I’m starting to believe these things are happening," Kirsch said. "I have to keep my focus in winning. This team wants a state championship. That’s where we want to be at the end of the season. There’s more pressure. I’m dealing with it. I think I should be able to handle it. I lived the alternative last year. I know what it’s like to watch. I don’t want a repeat of that."
Joseph Santoliquito covers high schools for the Philadelphia Daily News and is a contributor to MaxPreps.com. He can be contacted at JSantoliquito@yahoo.com.