The Oakland Athletics have found several Clemson Tigers’ players to their liking over the past few season. The A’s latest acquisition from the ACC program, 2017 28th-round pick Pat Krall, brings a fearless approach to pitching and a solid change-up to professional baseball.
When Krall graduated from high school, he never imagined his college path would lead him to pitching in key situations for an ACC powerhouse. The Pennsylvania native had only one Division I offer coming out of high school: to pitch for the Temple Owls. Krall had a strong freshman season for Temple, allowing just two earned runs in 27.1 innings. That would be Krall’s only season with the Owls, however, as Temple shuttered its baseball program at the end of the 2014 season.
At the time, Krall thought his Division I career would end along with the Owls’ program.
“I couldn’t have dreamed to land in a place like Clemson,” Krall said. “When I found out that [the Temple program] was going to get cut, I was thinking that that was going be my chance to be Division I. The [Division II] school I would have gone to in West Chester just won the Division II national championship, so I had good options, but it meant a lot to go to a school like Clemson. The opportunities they have given me, the fans, the support, it was honestly a dream come true. I’m really happy it turned out the way that it did.”
Krall pitched for three seasons with the Tigers, filling a variety of roles, from long relief to closing to starting games as the Clemson Sunday starter this season. Along the way, Krall went 20-9 for the Tigers.
Krall says having the opportunity to pitch against ACC hitters week-in and week-out the past three seasons has prepared him for professional baseball.
“Every weekend in the ACC, you are going against one or two hitters at least who have the talent to make it at the next level,” Krall said. “I think it will really help me in this next level that I had to learn not to be intimidated by anything. Just go out there and play and have fun with it. Even in the mid-week games, you are playing pro level guys. Being able to play talent like that every day is something that you can only wish for.”
After making only three career starts his first three college seasons, Krall started 16 games for the Tigers in 2017. He did well in that role, posting a 3.50 ERA. Krall said that moving into the rotation was different, but he ultimately enjoyed it. He says he’s open to any role in professional baseball.
“It was a little weird at first. I had been a reliever my whole career in college. Becoming a starter and sitting there the whole week and then only pitching one day a week it was a bit of an adjustment, but I enjoyed it thoroughly,” Krall said. “I’m interested in continuing that at the professional level, but whatever they want to do, I’m just good with. But I really enjoyed it and I’m glad I got to do it for one year in college.”
Krall had the opportunity to go pro last season when he was selected in the 28th round by the St. Louis Cardinals. He struggled with the decision, but ultimately decided that he needed another year of college baseball before taking the next step.
“I think that was probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make. I tip my cap to the Cardinals and Charles Peterson [the Cardinals’ area scout],” Krall said. “They understand how difficult the decision is and how it will change your life. I tip my hat to them that they really handled it well. I couldn’t have asked for anything more from them.
“Ultimately, it really came down to the fact that I wasn’t really ready. Going back to school, having a chance to be a starter and maybe developing a new pitch, having another year of that, and finishing my degree will help me past baseball, too. I didn’t think it would be fair to me or to the Cardinals if I wasn’t 100% invested when I went. Going back to school I felt was the right thing for me and I won’t ever regret it. Even to this day, I definitely had a good year last year, got my degree, learned a few new things about baseball and now I’m really excited to get started.”
Ironically, Krall went to the A’s in the same round that he went to the Cardinals in 2016 (the 28th). He says he spent last Wednesday hanging out at the pool with two of his Clemson teammates, waiting to see if he’d get the opportunity to turn pro.
“We were watching the draft tracker, I think it was 30-45 seconds behind the picks on Twitter,” Krall said of his 2017 draft day experience. “The Oakland A’s were up on the draft tracker and I started seeing a couple of names of people I hadn’t talked to in awhile and they were text messages. I thought, ‘oh, I think it just happened.’ I watched the tracker and when my name popped up, it was just a relief. It had been a long couple of days. I’m happy to be drafted by a team, especially with [A’s area scout] Neil Avent, he’s a great person and really cares about me. It was awesome to go to a team like the A’s.”
Avent says he was drawn to Krall’s competitiveness and his approach to pitching.
“His arsenal is not an overpowering arsenal, but he knows how to get outs with the pitches that he has,” Avent said. “It’s a fastball-change-up-breaking ball mix. He knows how to use the change-up effectively. A strike-thrower.”
Krall added a cut-fastball to his arsenal as a senior. He acknowledges that he isn’t going to overpower hitters.
“My strength is knowing who I am and knowing that I’m not going to be a high velocity thrower. I try to throw three or four pitches for a strike and keep hitters off-balance,” Krall said. “Really just do my job. I don’t go out there and try to do too much. I’m not trying to be someone special. I just go out there and compete and act like I belong.”
Krall joins former teammates Zack Erwin and Eli White, as well as current A’s starter Daniel Gossett, as recent Clemson alums currently in the A’s system. The left-hander reports to the A’s minor league facility in Mesa, Ariz., on Monday. He says knowing White and Erwin is a comfort as he takes the next step in his career.
“It’s cool to see Clemson alums around there. Just talking to them about the lifestyle and all of that,” Krall said. “It’s been cool to reach out to them and talk to them. It’s nice knowing that there will be some familiar faces around.”
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