In the prior two summers before coming to Tucson, Kevin Ginkel had his name called in the MLB Draft. In 2014, it was in the 16th round by the San Francisco Giants. In 2015, it was in the 26th round by the Boston Red Sox.
But each time, he elected to play college ball instead.
In November of 2014, Ginkel actually committed to Nevada to play for current Arizona head coach Jay Johnson. But he wound up playing the 2015 season at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, CA.
Now with Johnson and Ginkel together at Arizona, the first half of the season was a bit disappointing for the right-handed flame thrower. Through 11 relief appearances, Ginkel had a 6.57 ERA, and was struggling with his command, having walked eight batters in his most recent 5 2/3 innings.
He made a tweak in his delivery mechanics around this time in the season. He says the adjustment to his lower body allowed him to get more velocity on his fastball.
"Once I made that mechanical change I was seeing results in the bullpens," Ginkel explained. "I think the velocity's jumped up quite a bit since the fall. Early in the spring, I was like I know I can throw harder than this. Just tried fixing some things, tinkering with stuff. I just found something that worked, and it's helped me out big time."
"He's kind of turned it around," JC Cloney added about his fellow pitcher and roommate. "At the beginning of the year, we didn't know what he was gonna be."
It also gave him more confidence and changed his mentality heading into outings.
Ginkel got the call to start against New Mexico State on Wednesday, April 20th, his first start of the season. The defense did him in, as he only lasted 3 1/3 innings. He didn't allow an earned run, but three unearned by the Aggies brought him out of the game prematurely.
The next weekend, he got the midweek call again. This time it was going to be in Phoenix against Arizona State.
He didn't disappoint, taking a perfect game into the 7th, eventually throwing a complete game two-hitter.
"I just wanted to make a name for myself," he explained. "The start before against New Mexico State I did pretty well, and unfortunately my defense wasn't behind me but I was able to work through it."
"But I was like 'Hey, this one game could change it all'."
"Now he got the one start against ASU and kind of just said give me the ball every Sunday," Cloney added. "He's taken it by the horns and shown he can be a really good pitcher not only at the D-1 level but at the pro level."
Was this the sign that something had changed for the better from a mental standpoint?
"I think it started a little bit before then," Coach Johnson said. "He had a really good relief outing against BYU, had a good outing against Washington State, but that Arizona State outing was obviously something special and it led to a really good second half of the season."
"Did it help his confidence? Sure. And since that BYU game, he's been a really key cog that's improved our team and our season."
His mentality hasn't changed off the field though.
"I live with the kid and it's just the same old Ginkel," Cloney explained. "Just doing his stupid little things that he always does and just being loose and free and easy."
In that ASU game, Pac-12 Network's radar gun had Ginkel touch 98 MPH with his fastball late in the game. That's about as good as it gets for him.
"I've been throwing anywhere from 97 to 98," he said of his currently velocity. "I think on our gun I hit 99 once, but I think mostly it's been mid-to-low 90s. I'm happy with that. If it keeps hitters off-balance, throwing inside you'll get guys out. Getting over a changeup every once in a while is important as well just to keep 'em off-balance."
So was it worth it to come to Arizona after passing on the draft twice?
"I think so, yeah," Ginkel explained. "I'm very happy with it. Just being around the right people is the best thing, and I think with this coaching staff, they've just embraced how I've been as a pitcher. Starting out, it wasn't the way they thought I would be, but now they're starting to see the best of me."
Ginkel was always going to get drafted after this year just based on his past and now having that one year of D-1 experience. Baseball America currently has him ranked as the 451st overall prospect.
With his final 33 innings of regular season ball resulting in just seven earned runs (ERA of 1.91), you'd have to think he will be drafted higher than the previous two times, and this third time, the opportunity will be too good to pass up.