Athletics Draft Penn Right-Hander Szynski in Fourth Round

By Steve Krah
PBR Indiana Correspondent

MISHAWAKA — Pitchers expect to be the center of attention. 

After all, they are in the middle of the diamond and the action doesn’t start until they deliver the baseball. 

As Skylar Szynski grew, his ability to deliver the ball became better and better. 

Suddenly, the Penn High School right-hander had dozens of scouts standing focusing on him. 

They began lining up behind the backstop and pointing radar guns at the lanky kid with flowing locks, high leg kick and a 95 mph fastball during his starts for the Kingsmen and during showcase events. 

On Friday, June 10, the 6-foot-2, 207-pound Granger resident became the first Indiana-born player selected in the 2016 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. 

Szynski, who was born July 14, 1997 in South Bend, was taken in the fourth round (112th overall) by the Oakland Athletics. He was the fifth player selected by the A’s and the third right-handed pitcher (behind Daulton Jefferies in the “sandwich round” and Logan Shore in the second round). 

“This is the greatest feeling in the world,” Skylar said.  

It was the second day of the draft — the first two rounds were held Thursday, June 9. 

So there was plenty of waiting for Skylar, his family, friends and teammates. 

“It’s very stressful,” Skylar said. “It was nervous the whole time.” 

When the called his name, he was at lunch with his girlfriend while his parents were working in the yard. 

The son of Brent and Robin Szynski has already verbally committed to pitch at Indiana University and will have a decision to make. 

“I feel like I can be successful at the next level, no matter what it is,” Skylar said. “I have all the confidence in the world and the support right behind me.” 

But first, there’s the IHSAA state tournament. 

“I just have a focus on getting the job done (Saturday),” Skylar said. “I don’t want to let my teammates down.” 

Skylar, who won five games during the 2015 postseason on the way to Penn winning a Class 4A state championship, has helped the Kingsmen back to the semistate. Penn (27-3) plays Zionsville (29-4-2) at noon Saturday, June 11 at Kokomo Municipal Stadium for the right to play in the 2016 4A championship contest next weekend at Victory Field in Indianapolis. 

A regular contributor for Penn’s pitching staff as a sophomore and the ace the past two years, Skylar said he has improved the most in the past year with his secondary pitches — his curveball and change-up (thrown with a “circle” grip). 

“They’ve evolved pretty well and I’ve been able to command them,” Skylar said. “I feel comfortable with throwing any pitch at any time.” 

Nervous during the draft process, Skylar does not show much emotion on the mound, though it’s there. 

How does he deal with in-game stress? 

“I just breath and take it as it is,” Skylar said.  

He’s got the admiration of his head coach. 

“I don’t know how he does it,” Greg Dikos said. “He’s calm, cool and collected. His stomach had to be turning with 20 scouts out there with guns and taking notes on every pitch and move he made. It had to be very nerve-racking for a 17- or 18-year-old kid and he handled it like a champ.” 

Brent Szynski, who played for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famers Ric Tomaszewski (South Bend Washington High School) and Bob Warn (Indiana State University), noted that his oldest child had mound talent at a young age. 

“He’s always had a strong arm,” Brent said. “He was always that kid in Little League that nobody wanted to face. He could a little wild at times, too. He couldn’t quite control the fastball yet. 

“Since he was 10, he’s always had that extra zip on his fastball.” 

With maturity and work, Skylar got stronger and was able to control his deliveries. 

Now, baseball people talk about Skylar is turns of the many spins he gets on the ball as it leaves his hand at rapid speed. 

Heading into semistate, Skylar is 10-1 with two saves and an 1.86 earned run average with 80 strikeouts and 22 walks in 64 innings. Opponents are hitting .144 against him. 

For his varsity career, he is 27-4 with six save, 1.77 ERA, 248 K’s and 82 walks in 198 2/3 innings with an opponent average of .120. He has allowed just one home run in his career. 

Skylar shows little emotion on the mound, but his father can be found standing at the fence. 

“I’m always shaking and moving around,” Brent said. “You can tell when I’m a nervous wreck. “I think (Skylar) has learned to block things out. Throwing in front of scouts and in these big showcases throughout the summer, he’s able to focus without all the distractions.” 

Skylar’s mother, who was an athlete at Mishawaka Marian High School, was known to occasionally participate in backyard workouts. 

“I wanted to have fun with my kid,” Robin said of one workout when Skylar was about 10 or 11. “I grabbed my bat and said, ‘bring it!’” 

The ball moved and mom couldn’t get out of the way fast enough. 

So it struck mom in the center of her right thigh. 

“It really didn’t feel good,” Robin said. “(Skylar and Brent) fell down laughing and I fell down crying.” 

Flash forward to high school and all the attention Skylar has gotten and Robin marvels at how her son has handled the attention. 

“I’m really, really proud of him that he can bring it it, keep it close and say what needs to be said. He handles it with a maturity that is beyond his years. 

He’s had this vision — this goal — for so long and hasn’t let anybody get in his way. But he’s not running over anybody to get there. He’s just doing his job.” 

Skylar of a senior class at Penn which began playing travel ball during the summers as sophomores and that’s where he began getting his first real exposure to college and professional scouts. 

“The other players got to reap the benefits,” IHSBCA Hall of Famer Dikos said. “A lot of times when the scouts were coming to see Skylar, they got to watch other players on our team as well.” 

The group stayed together as juniors and developed a great deal of team chemistry. 

“We owe a state championship to that type of togetherness,” Dikos said. “Now, here we are battling for another one. And it’s certainly because these guys stuck together through thick and thin.” 

And Skylar Szynski has been right in the middle of it.