Hard-throwing Michael Kohn has returned to his baseball home, his baseball family, the Angels. Amazingly, five full seasons have been played since he last lit up our radar gun.
Michael took some time to talk with me last week, making him the first player interviewed for CtPG. He’s very nice, easygoing, and very easy to talk to, a great example of what it means to be a small town guy.
Here’s the transcript of that call:
You’ve come full circle, back with the Angels. How did that process go? Did they reach out to you early and how does it feel to be coming, at least professionally, back home?
“Yes. My hiatus, you know I left Anaheim after ’14, and after I left Anaheim still felt like home to me. I spent my first 7 of 12 years or so here so it was always [home].
I tell people this was a team, an organization that groomed a young 21 year old into a 27, 28 year old adult.
Jeff, I’ve always expressed my desire, voiced my opinion to my agency about how much I’ve always wanted to come back and fortunately it came to fruition this year and I’m excited and happy to be back. But we’ll see when the season starts.”
Man, it doesn’t seem like it’s been 5 seasons without you. Time, at least from my side, has kind of flown by. You’ve had your moments since you’ve left you’ve been with the Twins and the Braves, bouncing back and forth to the minors. What made you just keep going and going, believing you would make it back to the major leagues?
“It’s been, obviously, a tough road since I left. Went to Atlanta, signed, and unfortunately blew out my shoulder. Had rotator cuff surgery and spent the latter of 24 months after surgery rehabbing that back, which a year of it I spent back here in LA at Manhattan Beach, which wasn’t a bad place to rehab.
Came back from that, signed a two-year deal with Minnesota. I was extremely excited and fortunate they gave me a two year deal. Unfortunately in the second or third Spring Training outing I tore my coracorbrachialis nerve which is an extremely rare injury in baseball, which that set me back another seven months.
Came back from that and signed with the Diamondbacks last year and that was my first year back in almost three years.
I was just….you know people always ask ‘why would you put yourself through that? That’s crazy you’ve gone through all that and you’re still playing.’ And I tell people it would be easy for me to walk away from the game, I’ve been fortunate enough to play on the professional side for a long time, fortunate enough to be in the big leagues for parts of six seasons. I tell people it would be easy for me to walk away from the game if my stuff had diminished.
Whereas if I was throwing 88, 90, which there’s nothing wrong with that (chuckles) coming out of the bullpen it just doesn’t play. If I was throwing like that it would be easy for me to look at myself in the mirror and say ‘you’re not up to your standards, the way you used to be’ and I could walk away fine.
But I’m still throwing mid-to-upper 90s and nowadays they have technology with the Trackman, which they didn’t have when I was in the game. I came back from surgery and they have all this technology driven things that can tell you all kind of spin rates and stuff and I guess I’m elite in all those categories.
It was hard for me to look myself in the mirror when I’m still throwing 95, 96 and give it up so that’s why I didn’t.”
That’s definitely understandable, not wanting to go out due to an injury. You talk about throwing 95,96, even 98. How old were you when it became apparent you just threw harder than everybody else?
“Jeff, I didn’t play…most people know the background story I didn’t play, or I wasn’t a pitcher in college until my senior year in college when I kind of joked with the coaching staff. But I always knew I had a pretty good arm, even when I was in high school playing shortstop. Even playing football, throwing a football. I always just knew I was blessed, I was fortunate enough to have a good arm.
I didn’t know how good it was until my senior year in college when I got on the mound one day as a joke and started throwing 95, 96, 97. I knew it was good, I just didn’t know how good it was until I stepped on the mound.”
Yeah, it was fun to watch when you came up. Me being a ticket holder for a long time, everybody in the stadium knew a fastball was coming. The guy in the batter’s box had to know it was coming..
“(chuckles) Yeah, I’ve gotten a little bit better over the years at that (laughs). I’m certainly not a guy who likes to shake off number one, which has gotten me in trouble at times (laughs)”
Yeah, conversely it’s got to feel good to throw 98 by a guy but it is going to happen, especially at this level, I was there once when somebody turned you around at about 97-98…
and it was unbelievable how fast the ball comes off the bat at 97. Do you ever think about wearing a helmet or something out there (laughing)
“(chuckles) No, I’ve never thought about me needing something like that.
I can honestly say out of the guys who have taken me deep in my career, of all the guys, I can say that most of them are probably Hall of Famers, which is a good thing to say. Beltre, Miggy, um, Jim Thome, no he didn’t take me deep.
But a lot of them are Hall of Famers so at least I can say mostly just the Hall of Famers got me, I was that good.
But, yeah, big league guys can square up 103 miles per hour. It doesn’t really matter how hard you throw. These guys are the best in the world.”
Don’t know why I just remembered that but I do think it was Beltre. Day game, right?
“Yeah, it was either Beltre or Miggy, those two guys got me pretty good. So did Napoli once he went to Boston but Napoli was my first catcher so he knew I was throwing a heater. Josh Hamilton got me really good at home.”
I kind of feel bad for bringing it up, I just remembered it, and
“No, no, it’s OK. I have given up some long ones, that’s for sure.”
That’s about half of our talk, I will get the rest up soon.