By Neil Geoghegan
@NeilMGeoghegan on Twitter
GLENMOORE >> Just about everybody has experienced a Déjà vu moment, and former Downingtown West baseball star Pat Krall just went through a doozy.
A year ago, following his junior season at Clemson, Krall was taken in the 28th round of the Major League Baseball Draft, but the Glenmoore native decided to return for his senior season. Earlier this month the left-handed pitcher was once again draft-eligible, and he was subsequently selected in the 28th round by a different franchise.
In 2016, Krall was the 856th pick. Twelve months later, he moved up 25 spots to number 831.
“It was kind of wild,” Krall acknowledged. “I’ve never heard of anybody getting drafted twice in the same round, unless they were like a first rounder. It’s very odd and rare.”
Unlike the first go-round, Krall is now ready to give pro baseball his best shot. Earlier this week he flew to Mesa, Arizona, where the A’s spring training complex is located. After some workouts he expects to be relocated to Burlington, Vermont, and join the team’s Class A short-season affiliate, the Vermont Lake Monsters.
“The first draft I wasn’t sure if I was going to go or not,” Krall said. “It was just exciting to get drafted. That was cool.
“The second time, I knew that this was it.”
Krall is a self-described “crafty lefty” who uses more finesse than power, which belies a 6-foot-6 frame. His fastball is in the mid- to upper-80s, which isn’t noteworthy, but his off-speed pitching abilities certainly are.
“I’m not going to light up the radar gun and blow fastballs with how hard I’m throwing,” he admitted. “But I can throw three or four pitches for a strike, and that’s how I’ve been able to keep people off-balance.”
Krall’s road from graduation at Downingtown West (in 2013) to professional ball hasn’t been linear either. And that includes his academic journey in addition to the athletic jaunt.
A two-time All-Ches-Mont hurler with the Whippets under head coach Dave Oleszek, Krall committed to play college ball at Temple. But soon thereafter, the school announced that it was discontinuing the program along with six others.
“It seems like a long time ago, but it was only in 2014,” Krall said.
During his only season with the Owls, Krall sported a team-best 0.66 earned run average with a win and two saves. Opponents batted just .181 against him and he was eventually named the Big 5 Co-Rookie of the Year.
“I’d like to think these things happen for a reason — whether good or bad — and it’s up to you to either better your life or challenge yourself to become better,” Krall said.
“In the moment, I was confused and sad that the program was cancelled. But I had a great year at Temple, and I got back in love with the game because everybody knew it was coming to an end and we just went out and had fun.
“Looking back on it, it was what I needed. I’m not glad it happened, but I’m thankful for how it turned out.”
That’s because Krall wound up transferring to Clemson, a powerhouse program that has reached the NCAA Tournament in all but one season dating back to 1987. And he was immediately eligible.
As a sophomore in 2015, Krall was a short-relief closer for the Tigers and led the pitching staff in appearances. A year later, he was a consensus All-American and a team MVP.
And even though he didn’t commit to leaving college early and playing professionally, the St. Louis Cardinals drafted him in 2016, and offered a six-figure signing bonus. That set up a very difficult decision. His parents, Tom and Sharon Krall, gave their input, but it was Pat’s decision.
“It was one of the harder decisions I’ve ever had to make,” he acknowledged. “I am just thankful for my parents, my coaches at Clemson and the Cardinals for being respectful and understanding.
“You always hear people talk about life after baseball. For me it was important to get my degree and then play pro ball. From day one, my dream was to play pro ball, but now, whenever baseball is done – whether it is tomorrow or 10 years from now – I’ll be ready for the corporate world.”
With a new head coach and a new role as a starter, Krall went 8-3 with 64 strikeouts in 84-plus innings as a senior at Clemson. The Tigers won the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament and Krall was named All-Conference.
Along the way, Krall also developed into an outstanding student-athlete. After just “getting by” in high school, he began his academic rise at Temple and it carried over to Clemson. He became the school’s first ACC Scholar Athlete of the Year in 2016.
“Pat has the mental toughness and focus that surpasses any player on any team I’ve ever coached,” said Clemson head coach Monte Lee. “It’s no surprise to anyone who knows him that he would excel in the classroom.
“When a task is at hand, he is confident and takes charge. He is a young man of integrity.”
Krall graduated with honors in mid-May with a degree in business management.
“I do believe there’s a correlation between academic discipline and my athletic outcomes,” he said.
“For me, effort and focus in the classroom carries over to other parts of my life. I truly believe working hard in the classroom has made me a better ball player.”
Surprisingly, Krall says that the 2017 Big League Draft June 12-15th was less stressful than a year earlier, although it did provide some anxious moments when he went unpicked until the latter rounds. Sticking around for an extra year and only moving up 25 picks wasn’t ideal, but now he has his college degree.
“I still think to this day it was the right decision,” he said. “I probably would do it all over again. In my heart I wanted to stay and get my degree.”
It’s unclear right now exactly what role Krall is going to have with the Lake Monsters. He would prefer starting, but likes the idea of coming out of the bullpen and helping the team more than just once a week.
“I just want to pitch at the professional level,” he said. “I think it would be the coolest thing ever, in whatever role it is.”
Whenever his pro baseball career ends, Krall would like to eventually get into the business side of sports.
“I love sports. It’s been my whole life, so I hope to continue that in some capacity,” he said. “So being able to work for a professional team, or with a company like Rawlings or Nike, would be great.”
But right now, the ultimate goal is to work his way to the Major Leagues.
“I think being a lefty is a huge advantage, so I am going to ride that as long as I can,” Krall said. “Maybe I can ride it all the way to ‘The Show’ one day.”