Prep star clocked at 102 mph during senior season at Shepherd High School
MIAMI -- Tyler Kolek's arrival at Marlins Park on Monday afternoon was delayed by Miami traffic by almost 40 minutes -- ironic for a kid who comes from a 2,500-person town in Texas that got its first stoplight this year.
But as soon as Kolek walked into the conference room, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound pitcher from Shepherd, Texas, commanded all attention as he was presented with a Marlins hat and No. 1 jersey.
This marked the beginning of a journey that will begin one hour north of Miami in Jupiter, Fla., with the Gulf Coast League Marlins on Tuesday.
"It's something I've dreamed of doing my entire life," Kolek said. "I just can't wait to be able to do it for real and be here for a long time.
The Marlins announced Monday morning that they signed first-rounder Kolek, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft. His $6 million bonus, which was confirmed by MLB.com, fell below the slot value of $6,821,000.
Kolek, a right-hander out of Shepherd High School just north of Houston, made waves in the Draft this year with a fastball that clocked at 102 mph -- the fastest ever recorded by a high school player. When he hit that speed on a radar gun for the first time, he had one of those "aha!" moments that made him realize just how far he could get if he continued to play baseball.
He couldn't believe it at first, though. When he did it at the Area Code Games, it took a call from a scout to convince him.
"I started pitching again and I threw 102," he said. "And I realized, 'How many people can throw 102?'"
He finished his senior season at Shepherd High School with a 5-2 record and a 0.35 ERA. The fireballer also struck out 126 batters while walking just eight in 60 1/3 innings, a campaign that earned him Gatorade Texas Player of the Year honors for 2013-14.
The fastball developed after he broke his left arm in an infield collision during his junior season. When he made his return to the mound a few months later, he hit 100 mph a few times during the summer season, but mostly ranged between 93-96. It wasn't until this spring that he pushed 100 mph on a regular basis.
He did it so regularly, in fact, that when asked how his catcher handled him, he just shook his head and laughed.
"My poor catcher," Kolek said. "It seemed like every game, by the second inning, his whole arm would be blue."
But after shaking hands with Major League players and talking to Marlins' reliever Mike Dunn for so long that he didn't have the chance to pick anyone else's mind, Kolek won't have to worry about hurting his catchers anymore.
The Marlins have signed 19 of their 42 selections in this year's Draft, including all of their first five picks.
Maria Torres is an associate reporter for MLB.com.