Q&A with Tennessee Commit LHP Kirby Connell (Butler, 2019)



Shon Plack
Missouri Scouting Director

Kirby Connell (Butler, 2019) has recently committed to play baseball at the University of Tennessee after high school.  Connell committed shortly after attending the PBR Future Games at the beginning of August.  

Below is a closer look at Kirby Connell and how he landed at Tennessee. 

Kirby Connell

Class of 2019 / LHP

Player Information

  • Graduating Class: 2019
  • Primary Position: LHP
    Secondary Position: 1B
  • High School: Blacksburg
    State: SC
  • Summer Team: Kansas City Royals Scout Team
  • Height: 6-0
    Weight: 175lbs
  • Bat/Throw: S/L

Statistics

Pitching
84
Max FB
82 - 83
FB
70 - 72
CB
75 - 76
CH
Position
8.01
60-yard
82
OF Velo
92
Exit Velo
4.85
H-1st
PBR: What were your expectations about the recruiting process? Was it as expected? Easy/Difficult?
I expected it to be stressful. 

Connell: I love playing the game but knowing that you have to perform for more than just winning the game is tough.  It is also hard to remember that the coach is there to evaluate you and is not concerned about what happens behind you.  But as a pitcher, I want to win.  It was as difficult as I thought and maybe more.  I had the opportunity this summer to pitch in front of most of the SEC, ACC, and Big 12 at several games.  When you look behind home plate and see 20-30 scouts focusing on every move you make it is hard to be loose.  One of tough parts for me also was all of the phone conversations I had to have with coaches.  Some of them were good at asking questions and others just wanted me to talk about myself.  I think it is tough to talk about yourself and tell someone why you are good.

PBR: Did location or distance from home play a factor in your decision?

Connell: Somewhat.  I grew up in Tennessee and just moved to Missouri three years ago.  My goal has always been to play in the SEC so when the opportunity came to play in the SEC and play near my family and friends it was an easy decision.  If not at Tennessee, I probably would have chosen a school near here.

PBR: Describe your experience at the PBR Future Games.

Connell: 
It is the most recruited experience that I have been to in my baseball years.  I loved representing my state and playing with a lot of guys I had played against in the past three years.  It was also good to play with several of the guys who played with me on the Royals Scout Team.  I love the coaches and how the way they make it fun.  It is a stressful place with all the scouts watching you but I love the way Coach Vitello always told me to have fun.  You want to win and it was good to beat Kansas in the game I pitched, but you also want to do good so the coaches will like what they see.  I think there you also want those around you to do good so they can get an opportunity to fulfill their dreams.  This year was less stressful than last year because I had been there and knew what to expect plus I already had the offer from Tennessee. PBR does a great job of helping every player get recruited by colleges.  It is a great event and loved playing there the past two years and representing Missouri.  

PBR: Where did Tennessee first see you? How did your relationship develop with them?

Connell: I knew Coach Vitello when he was at Arkansas as the recruiting coach. He had seen me play several times last year, but most importantly at the PBR Futures Game.  When he got the Head Coach job at the University of Tennessee, I reached out to him and congratulated him.  His dad was the coach for Team Missouri and he and Coach Mense are good friends.  He saw me play several times this summer, including at the Perfect Game 17U WWBA.  They reached out to me after the 17U WWBA.  I made a visit to the campus and met Coach Anderson, the pitching coach.  From there it developed very fastly and they made an offer a few days later.  I love the staff and growing up in Tennessee, it did not take a lot of convincing to get me excited about playing there.  I also love the fact that they are going to let me try to play as a pitcher and a hitter.   

PBR: Who is the best player you have faced in your state, and why?

Connell: Cole Schroeder.  I have known him a couple of years but I faced him as a batter last year at the 15U WWBA Championships in the semi-finals when I was playing with my team from Tennessee and he was playing with the East Coast Sox out of Mississippi.  He threw a no hitter against us to get his team to the championships.

PBR: What advice would you give to young baseball players striving to get where you are?

Connell: Work hard all the time because someone out there somewhere that you are competing with for a spot on a college or pro team is doing the same or more. Also, play on the best teams you can in the best tournaments you can so that you can face great competition.  I believe great competition makes you better. Build relationships.  You never know when a relationship will become the factor in you getting to a college of your dreams. 

PBR: What do you do in the offseason to keep yourself in baseball shape and prepare for the upcoming season?

Connell: I have started football and basketball every year for our varsity.  I believe throwing a football helps strengthen my arm and make me a better pitcher.  Plus I believe the running in basketball gets me in great condition for baseball. 

PBR: What is the most memorable moment in your baseball career to this point?

Connell: Making it to the semi-finals at the WWBA last summer with the East Tennessee Crusaders, which is a team I grew up playing with.  We were not the best team but we played together as a group and won when we needed to. Getting asked to play at Tennessee I think will ultimately be a bigger moment.

PBR: What do you like most about Tennessee and what were the key factors in making your decision?

Connell: 
It is close to my friends and family back there.  I have always wanted to play in the SEC.  I am excited about when Coach Vitello and Coach Anderson are going to do in the next two years before I arrive.  I also know that many of my friends will go there since it is only an hour and a half from where I grew up.

PBR: What other schools were on your short list before you made your final decision?

Connell: Arkansas, Missouri State, and Kansas along with the rest of the SEC and top half of the ACC.

PBR: When did the recruiting process really start to heat up for you? Was there a particular game or event that you feel turned the corner for you?

Connell: 
At the 17U World Wood Bat Association, I had two great games back to back at Lakepoint.  I was playing with a team from South Carolina and hit a big homerun at Lakepoint with a lot of scouts watching.  The next day I threw 7 innings with 12 strikeouts with most of the SEC coaches watching.  I then was able to pitch again the first game of the 16U WWBA with almost every SEC team watching, including Coach Anderson from Tennessee.  Right after the 17U WWBA game where I pitched real well I started to get a lot of attention.  I was blessed to be playing against a team from New York Bronx that had a really good pitcher on it that a lot of scouts wanted to see.  It was tough because the team I was playing with had not played well that week.  We won the game and I pitched well topping at 88 by a couple of scouts.  I felt like that is when I drew a lot more attention than I had previously.

PBR: Preview your high school season for us. How do you feel your team will be? What are your expectations and goals?
It will be a tough season. 

Connell: We lost three starters to graduation from last year and they were our shortstop, CF and number two pitcher, and third basemen.  They were also our 2, 4, and 5 hitters in our lineup.  I think we will be ok but will have to work hard to do as good as we have for the past two years.  My goal is to win our conference and district which will be tough since we are in with Summit Christian Academy who is always good in both our conference and district.

PBR: Where do you play in the summer? And what has been your most memorable experience with them?

Connell: My main team this summer was the Kansas City Royals Scout Team.  I also played with the East Tennessee Crusaders and the Midland Rebels. The highlight of my summer was playing at the Team USA tryouts in Florida.  We did really good and lost to the champion.  Mostly I enjoyed meeting these guys and building relationships.  We had great coaches and staff to help.  It was fun realizing what baseball will be like at the college and pro level.  They are a great organization.

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