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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Kevin Munson: About to Bring Some Relief to Arizona

The determination to prove others wrong can often be as strong a motivating factor as any that an athlete can use to drive themselves toward their goals. Arizona Diamondback right-handed pitching prospect Kevin Munson is fortunate not only having that, but a also possesses great deal of talent, as he works his way to the major leagues.

At Cave Spring High School in Roanoke, Virginia, Munson mainly played catcher, pitching a little during his senior season, and while he was All-District that year, he was an even more decorated swimmer. For a time he thought about throwing himself wholly into swimming while in college, but ultimately accepted an offer to walk on to the James Madison University baseball team. Most schools saw Munson as a catcher, not seeing potential in his raw pitching skills. As it turned out, that was a big mistake.

Munson went on to have a historic pitching career with JMU, undoubtedly leaving more than a few college evaluators wondering how they missed out on such a unique talent. He finished as the school’s all time leader in saves and had a senior season that made him the Colonial Athletic Association’s pitcher of the year. He also had the unusual distinction of leading the conference in saves (10), while tying for the lead in wins (8). He also led the CAA with a 1.64 ERA, good for sixth in the nation.

The Diamondbacks were intrigued by Munson’s potential and snapped him up in the 4th round of the 2010 MLB draft. They immediately started grooming him for a bullpen role, seeing his low to mid 90’s fastball and developing secondary pitches as fitting best there. Through two professional seasons Munson has earned his status as a high draft pick, while still showing that there are areas he needs to grow before he gets the call to the majors. As of this season he has made it as high as Double-A, appearing in a total of 57 games over his first two seasons, going 9-3 with a 3.30 ERA and 3 saves. He has also struck out 95 batters in 73.2 innings, demonstrating his ability to dominate. The 49 walks he has issued is an indication of his need to improve his control in order to continue progressing.

2012 will be a pivotal year for Munson, as he will show whether or not he is on the verge of being added to the Arizona bullpen. So far he has had a slow start with Mobile, but that has been inflated by 3 poor performances at the end of April. He is now back on track and continuing to develop at an impressive rate. Before spring training started, he took a little time to answer some questions about his experiences in baseball. If you want to keep following his career, check him out on Twitter. It shouldn’t be long before you see him on a mound in Arizona.

Kevin Munson Interview:

Who were your favorite team and player growing up and why?: The Tigers. I went to St. Louis to watch them play in the World Series in 2006. Unfortunately the game got rained out, but I still had a blast at the stadium.

My favorite player was Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez. I was a catcher most of my career until college, and Pudge had a cannon for an arm.

How did you come to play for James Madison University?: I wasn't talking to that many D-1 schools out of high school. One of my high school coaches, Rob Campbell, is a JMU alum. When he found out I had chance to play at JMU he was really pushing for me to rock the purple and gold. I went to camp there and started getting some phone calls afterward from the coaching staff.  I decided to go as an invited walk-on and haven't regretted it one day. Shout out to Coach Mac, White, Sullenger, Middleton, and Jones for all they taught me while I was there.

Can you run through what your draft experience was like?: A lot of anxiety. It was a memorable experience sitting around with my family and friends and hearing my name called. Arizona was actually one of the last teams to talk to me, so I was really surprised when I heard them say my name. I'm really happy where I ended up. 

How did you go about picking an agent?: I met with a lot of agencies and sat through some brutal meetings. It took me a while, but I'm really happy with my decision. I signed with Octagon; they were the first guys to call me. Especially Fred Wray and Bobby Witt; they do a great job. Looking back at it I wish I had met with more and gotten some free dinners. 

What pitches do you throw, and which one is your strongest and which one needs the most work?: Two-seam and four-seam fastballs, slider, and change-up. My two-seam is my best pitch because it sets up the other pitches. My change-up needs the most work, since it is a relatively new pitch to my arsenal. 

Now that you have pitched in Double-A, how much anticipation do you have about a major league call-up?: Obviously that is the goal, I don't worry about it too much. I take it one day at a time, because in baseball you never know what will happen.

Have you changed anything significant about your game since being drafted?: I learned a lot this year about the ups and downs of a long season. The biggest thing for me was not dwell on the past. Learn from your mistakes and prepare for the next game.  

What are your specific baseball goals for 2012?: To help my team win a championship!


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