Baseball fans in La Jolla may have all but given up on watching the game with the San Diego Padres in last place, but a graduate may be giving them hope to enjoy one of America’s favorite past times again. That is, if they’re willing to become Kansas City Royals fans.
On Monday, 2009 La Jolla High graduate and University of San Francisco senior Kyle Zimmer made history as he was drafted as the fifth overall pick to the Kansas City Royals – the highest draft pick in USF’s history. Zimmer is also the second La Jolla High School graduate ever to be drafted in the first round of the MLB draft.
“I’m speechless, it’s an exciting day,” Zimmer said on a live MLB feed moments after the pick was announced. “I’m just excited to be a part of the organization and try to go out and help the team. I want to get out there and help the club.”
Zimmer, who has been on scouts’ radar for more than a year and was favored highly before Monday’s draft, has been making waves as a pitcher for the USF Dons. The 6’4”, 220lb right-hander has perhaps become most popular for his fastball, which is consistently clocked upwards of 95 mph. Zimmer, also became a standout this year with an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio of 104-to-17, ranking him 26th in strikeouts in the entire Division-I conference. During his time with the Dons, Zimmer has thrown 200 strikeouts with only 41 walks.
“Our scouts identified him back going into the summer … and then got to know him and watched him in the spring,” Kansas City Royals Scouting Director Lonnie Goldberg said in a post-draft press conference. “We took the guy who we think is going to be a front-rotation starter. The scary part for us is we think he’s still got huge ceiling left in him. He can take off and be even better than what we already think he is.”
And that wouldn’t be the first time Zimmer’s athletic abilities exceeded the expectations of his coaches and teammates. While playing for La Jolla High School, Zimmer was actually drafted as a third baseman to the USF Dons before transitioning to the mound. After being impressed by his arm strength, USF Head Coach Nino Giarratano took his chances with Zimmer in the bullpen, despite the fact that Zimmer had been the third starting pitcher at La Jolla High School.
La Jolla High School varsity baseball coach Gary Frank recalls working with Zimmer.
“Kyle really dedicated himself after his junior season,” Frank said. “He worked extremely hard to get bigger, faster, and stronger. All of his hard work paid off; he had a great senior season. His senior year is when he first began to pitch. He was our third starting pitcher and had a 3-3 record with a 4.39 era. Kyle's skills were raw as a pitcher, but it was obvious he had a lot of potential.”
Continuing that hard work has put Zimmer on the path to MLB success. According to Goldberg, the 20-year-old player is expected to be in full rotation with the Kansas City Royals within the next two years.
“Kyle’s work ethic and competitive attitude are second to none,” Frank said. “He has an incredible drive and an unbreakable confidence. My advice to Kyle would be to keep working hard and enjoy the ride.”