PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – For the first time since 1979, two St. Joe’s Hawks have been selected in the MLB Draft.
First it was righthanded closer Ryan Kemp. He was nabbed by the Cincinnati Reds in the 14th round. Then, in the 16th round, righthander AJ Holland was chosen by the Braves.
Kemp says he is still taking the moment in:
“This has been my dream since I was old enough to walk, pretty much. Just having it realized is so surreal to me. Hasn’t really even sunk in yet. Crazy.”
Hear Matt Leon’s full interview with Ryan Kemp in this CBS Philly SportsPod…
Kemp led the Hawks with four saves this season, and he struck out 42 batters in 28⅔ innings, holding opponents to a .198 average. His coach, Fritz Hamburg, says it’s no accident that Kemp excels at getting the final three outs of a game.
“Ryan really has that kind of make-up that you see in closers,” Hamburg says. “He wants the ball in those situations. He’s a hard thrower who really did a much better job as the season progressed, commanding the zone, and his secondary pitch, his slider, really got to be pretty good.”
Hamburg also says Kemp has a “plus” change-up.
“There was a stretch there where it was really, really very good. And if he continues to throw it that way, in addition to his fastball which is upwards of 93-94 (miles per hour), he’s got that too to play off his slider — that’s the pitch he’s got to work on the most to command in the zone, but you put those three pitches together for an inning’s work, he’s really tough.”
Holland spent the season in the Hawks’ rotation. While he didn’t have a lot of success from a win/loss standpoint, Hamburg says he made a lot of progress.
“AJ has shown arm strength through his entire career here at St. Joe’s. He’s gradually, through the years we’ve stayed with him, had some tough goes of it, but we’ve just tried to work through that. His breaking ball has certainly gotten better and he’s learned to pitch with his secondary stuff, and that’s adding to his fastball. His fastball’s got more movement than it did originally, and he’s really just engaged in trying to be the best student of the game that he can. Toward the end of the season here, I thought he was throwing his best games as a Hawk that he’s had in his career. So I think the future is very bright for him.”
Holland says the moment when he got the call from the Braves saying they had drafted him was a once-in-a-lifetime experience:
“Right in that split second, a lot of things were going through my head. Filled with the excitement of, ‘Wow. This is actually happening.’ And also all the people, throughout my entire life who have been a part of preparing me both physically and mentally, all my family and friends and coaches. Just all of that wound up in a few seconds just going through my head and just like, ‘Wow, all the hard work is finally paying off.’ Pretty surreal.”
Listen to Matt Leon’s full interview with AJ Holland in this CBS Philly SportsPod…
The last two Hawks drafted in the same year in 1979 were John DelMonte (fourth round, St. Louis Cardinals) and David Thornton (24th round, San Francisco Giants).
Reported by Matt Leon, KYW Newsradio 1060