Six years ago, Kevin Siegrist was a middle-of-the-rotation high school starter who threw with below-average velocity. His mechanics weren’t right, and he didn’t properly use his 6-foot, 4-inch frame.
Today, he’s a Major League Baseball pitcher for one of the sport’s most respected franchises.
Siegrist, a former Palm Beach Central High School, Wellington High School and Palm Beach State College pitcher, made his MLB debut earlier this month for the St. Louis Cardinals.
After several up and down years of relocation and uncertainty, of adjustments and education, Siegrist has made it to the game’s biggest stage.
“He was a guy who came a long way in a very short period of time,” Palm Beach State College head coach Gary Forbes said. “And then, when he got into the minor leagues, his velocity just jumped. Now he’s a big leaguer.”
Siegrist began 2013 with the AA Springfield Cardinals. He made 13 appearances before being promoted to AAA Memphis. He made five appearances with the AAA Redbirds and was named the Cardinals’ Minor League Pitcher of the Month in May.
So, on June 6, when the big club needed a lefty reliever, Siegrist received the call only a tiny fraction of baseball hopefuls get.
“Our AAA manager Bob Warner called me up and told me the news,” Siegrist recalled last Tuesday from St. Louis. “I really couldn’t believe it at first. I was just really excited.”
The lefty made his big league debut that night. He pitched one and two-thirds innings, giving up a run-scoring single to the first batter he faced. He then retired the next five batters, four by strikeout.
“I was nervous at first, and then when I stepped on the mound and started throwing, it all went away,” he said. “Baseball is baseball at that point.”
Siegrist made two relief appearances in the Cardinals next series in Cincinnati. He faced Reds’ stars Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, which he called the most fun he has ever had on the mound. His fourth and fifth outings came against the Marlins in Miami, where his family was able to see him on a big league mound for the first time.
Though his family now calls South Florida home, Siegrist grew up in western New York, moving to Wellington before high school. He attended Palm Beach Central for two and a half years before transferring to Summit Christian School. He then attended WHS for his senior year.
But at these schools, Siegrist was never the main attraction. At Wellington, he didn’t even pitch in the district playoffs. PBSC was the only college to recruit him.
Former PBSC head coach and current Washington Nationals scout Alex Morales saw potential. “He had a lot of work to do,” Morales said. “In baseball terms, he was 6-4, but he pitched liked he was 5-9. He had a really long stride and he threw across his body. It wasn’t effective. He just needed to get on the mound more often because he was so raw.”
Through extensive periods of long toss, Siegrist improved his velocity. And through repetition, he improved his breaking pitches.
Forbes recalled a conversation he had with Siegrist about Siegrist’s stride coming off the mound. “When he got here in the fall, the first time he threw off the mound, he was extremely wild,” Forbes said. “As a lefty, he strode with his right foot toward the first base dugout. He needed to stride toward home.”
Forbes thought it would take weeks or months to correct. “He went home and did it about a gazillion times,” the coach said of Siegrist. “He came back three days later and his stride was good, right at the target.”
At PBSC, Siegrist went from a reliever lucky to throw two innings to throwing six or seven quality innings as a starter. After just one year, he was chosen by the Cardinals in the 41st round of the 2008 draft. Five years later, he’s in their big league bullpen.
On June 17, he pitched one and one-third innings of shutout ball on ESPN’s Monday Night Baseball. As of June 23, he had a 0.00 ERA and 11 strikeouts.
From an afterthought to Monday Night Baseball, Siegrist took the road less traveled.
“I believed it, and I thought it would happen,” Morales said. “I think it’s awesome that he has gotten to where he is. He reached his goals through hard work and perseverance.”
“It wasn’t like he was an absolute star,” Forbes added. “He kind of came out of nowhere.”
ABOVE: Pitcher Kevin Siegrist. Photo Courtesy Scott Rovak/St. Louis Cardinals