Wolverines ace: 'Super-exciting' to join Rockies

July 3rd, 2019

DENVER -- Righty Karl Kauffmann, who led the University of Michigan to the College World Series final before Vanderbilt took the title, said he did not know the Rockies were zeroing in on him and would take him 77th overall in this year's MLB Draft.

But there was a connection the whole time -- Matthew Schmidt, a Wolverines first baseman, happens to be the son of Rockies vice president of scouting Bill Schmidt. So there was no doubt that the Rockies were aware that Kauffmann was working through the fall and winter to develop the strike-throwing capability that sparked his collegiate success (12-7, 3.03 ERA in 21 games, 20 starts).

Kauffmann actually had come to Denver and attended Rockies games with Matthew Schmidt and his family, and their mothers became friends. Still, he didn’t know until he received the phone call.

“I really hadn’t heard much going into the Draft, so it was go and see what happens,” said Kauffmann, who agreed to terms on a contract after having a physical (numbers are not known, but MLB valued his Draft slot in Competitive Balance Round B at $805,600). “So when I heard the Rockies had picked me, it was super-exciting.”

In 2018 as a sophomore, Kauffmann led the Wolverines with 78 strikeouts in 79 innings. This year, both totals increased, to 111 in 130 2/3 innings.

“[Pitching coach Chris] Fetter did an incredible job this year helping me out from the day I stepped back on campus in the fall,” said Kauffmann, who said that his father, Ray, showed him YouTube videos of Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan to show the importance of mixing a fastball and a breaking pitch. “From day one, we had a focus and put together a game plan, and come time for the season, we were able to execute that.”

All-Star reunion
Rockies shortstop was excited not only to be chosen by his peers to the All-Star Game presented by Mastercard with three teammates (third baseman Nolan Arenado and outfielders Charlie Blackmon and David Dahl), but to be a National League teammate with longtime friend and fellow Irving, Texas, native Josh Bell of the Pirates.

While Bell is going to participate in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby, Story, who returned Monday after missing 11 games with a right thumb injury, will not.

“I don’t know if I can hit them with those boys,” Story said. “Maybe one time, but they haven’t asked me, and probably not a great idea right off the IL for me.”