Texas Rangers organization
Trevor Kuncl walked through the door for the first time at Driveline this past fall throwing 95 mph.
He didn’t come to Driveline for a new-and-improved fastball. He came because for the past two years he had carved up the Frontier League for the Lake Erie Crushers, and while a third season wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world, affiliated ball was the goal.
After three months training in Seattle, he put pen to paper on a contract with the Texas Rangers organization.
Driveline pitching coordinator Matthew Kress knew it was headed in that direction during his first athlete meeting with Kuncl, prior to which Kuncl sat 94-95 mph and explained that he would touch 98-99 mph during the season.
“In the back of my mind,” Kress said, “I was like, ‘Why aren’t you in affiliate ball right now?’”
That answer never really surfaced, although Kuncl being fairly new to pitching could have played a part. He was recruited as a shortstop to George Washington and saw his first action at third base for the Revolutionaries.
It wasn’t until after his freshman season in summer ball that he stepped onto the mound, and that was only for an inning. When he got back to campus he started to spend more time on the bump, and contributed almost 30 innings for GW out of the bullpen in his sophomore year.
The problem was, he had no idea what he was doing.
He eventually turned himself into GW’s closer in his final two seasons, striking out 86 hitters in 85 innings across those two seasons.
But it really wasn’t until after he graduated, when he was serving as the program’s director of operations, that he became the pitcher the Texas Rangers would eventually want in their organization.
Between loads of laundry, Kuncl and the volunteer assistant coach would head over to the bullpen and play with different grips. Eventually, Kuncl found a cutter he liked that he took with him to Lake Erie.
The cutter is the reason why Kress couldn’t believe Kuncl wasn’t already in affiliate ball when he first came to Driveline.
“He actually has an 80-grade cutter,” Kress said. “It’s probably one of the best pitches that I’ve seen that Driveline hadn’t touched.”
The nearly-100 mph heater and immaculate cutter (combined with a sweeper and splitter that Kuncl added at Driveline, which he says might be his favorite pitches) were why Kress and the rest of the Driveline crew were so excited to get Levi Lacey, Texas’ local area scout, into the facility to watch Kuncl throw.
It wasn’t a wasted trip for Lacey, who liked what he saw enough to recommend Kuncl to his boss, who in turn liked Kuncl just as much as Lacey did.
Kuncl was actually on his way to Driveline when he got a call from Texas’ director of pro scouting saying they were going to sign him to a contract.
Looking back on it now, Kuncl credits the opportunity to train with other similarly-motivated pitchers at Driveline for where he is now.