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The growth and maturation of an MLB pitching prospect

By Jacob Knabel on Mar. 18, 2020 in Baseball

Before his very eyes, Concordia head baseball coach Ryan Dupic has watched Jason Munsch become a man. The San Francisco-area native first caught the eye of Dupic during a small showcase event near Los Angeles in 2016. At the time, Munsch was a young 16-year-old high school senior. The lefty had some giddy-up with a fastball registering in the mid-80s.

Even at that point, Dupic did not fully realize the hidden gem that he was about to unearth. However, Dupic did have the foresight to offer Munsch a scholarship without seeing him pitch in an actual game.

“It was beyond baffling to me,” Dupic says in recalling the recruiting circumstances. “It was the winter of his senior year and I got the impression that nobody had actively and aggressively recruited him. I couldn’t believe it. Then I remember on his visit it snowed and I was worried about that because he was from California. He liked it and you could see that he had a different perspective on things. Everything just fell into place really quickly.”

Fast forward to the spring of 2020 to find the polished and matured version of Munsch. He’s a legitimate Major League Baseball draft prospect featuring a nasty fastball-breaking ball combo that has laid waste to NAIA hitters. The numbers don’t even make sense – 59 strikeouts and a spotless 0.00 ERA in 26 innings of work. There’s been almost no hard contact off of Munsch, who has allowed just a .103 opponent batting average while touching as high as 94 on the radar gun.

Around the world of NAIA baseball, people know about Munsch. The Twitter account @NAIABall referenced Munsch in tweeting a video of ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith remarking, “I gotta confess, I love this man. I love this man.” An opposing player even tweeted, “Someone better sign this kid. He’s the real deal.”

Munsch says there has been interest expressed by the Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies, but his focus remains on the process that has made him into one of the NAIA’s best pitchers. Says Munsch, “I’m doing my best to be as good of a player as I can be and hope that people are willing to take the risk. It’s about showing how good I can be.”

As former Bulldog catcher Ryan Fesmire tweeted, “He is good at throwing baseballs.” Munsch’s three most recent starts were particularly impressive (all seven inning outings) – a 14-strikeout one-hitter versus Waldorf, a 20-strikeout shutdown of Morningside and a 16-strikeout no-hitter at Briar Cliff. C’mon, Jason. Explain yourself. What is this magic pitching potion you’ve discovered?

“Throwing strikes,” Munsch says in comprehending his success. “I always come back to it. My velocity is about the same as it was last year, but I’m throwing strikes more consistently with my off-speed pitches and it’s incredible how much of an effect that has. When hitters are trying to hit your fastball, if all they’re looking for is a fastball they can usually catch up to it. If they know in their head that you might throw a slider or a splitter it gets them off the fastball.”

As alluded to, Munsch was younger in age than most college freshmen when he arrived in Seward. Earlier in his career, Munsch went through some of the same struggles that a lot of young men and women do as they adjust to college and life away from home. Dupic pushed hard because he saw a lot of potential.

“He’s the one who’s really taken charge of his career,” Dupic said. “That’s been so cool to see. The bottom line is the kid was 16 years old. He’s a 20-year-old senior right now. When I was 16 I was a sophomore in high school. Of course there were areas we thought he could work harder in, but he had a lot to take in. You could say these things about every kid. The growth Jason has had and the heart he has for others is really cool. He’s put it all together.”

Munsch is now firmly entrenched as a part of the program’s winning culture. Without a doubt, it’s a shame that he won’t get the exposure he would have had if the remainder of the season had not been canceled. Imagine how the story would have evolved had Munsch carried on through the months of March, April and May in the same stunningly dominant fashion.

Thankfully, Munsch is mature enough to handle this unique situation that he, his teammates and college athletes across the country now find themselves dealing with. While sitting down for an interview on a Tuesday morning that was supposed to be a normal school day, Munsch has plenty of unexpected time to reflect on the journey that led him here.

“He was able to see the potential that I had before I did,” Munsch said in discussing his relationship with Dupic. “He helped guide me along to become a much better player than I was four years ago. He’s done a really good job of making sure I understood the importance of little things. He taught me the proper way to warm up and how to take care of my arm. He focused on the little things that made a big impact.”

Of course Munsch has interest in playing baseball professionally, but he’s also a very intelligent young man with many possibilities in his future. There is an expectation that Munsch will be drafted by an MLB team, but good luck trying to guess exactly what round he will land in or which team will choose him. For now, Munsch is going to treat this uncertain time like offseason training.

Munsch could not have possibly been any more impressive in his opportunities this spring. His rise to stardom is the result of considerable personal and physical growth within a Concordia baseball program that won GPAC regular-season titles in 2017 and 2019. Dupic can’t hide the appreciation he has for Munsch and his development. Dupic hadn’t seen this level of performance in previous All-Americans and eventual pro players he has coached.

“The 26 innings that Jason has thrown have been the most dominant of any pitcher that I’ve ever coached,” Dupic said. “It really hasn’t been that close. His combination of power stuff along with the ability to command multiple pitches have made him unbelievable. I truly believe he’s one of the best pitchers in the country. I’ve spent 13 years as a coach never taking anything for granted. Baseball has a way of humbling you. There were moments when Jason was pitching and I would think, ‘I don’t think they can beat us in this one.’”

NOTE: In the recruitment of Jason Munsch, Coach Dupic’s program awarded Munsch with the Carl T. Obermueller Pitching Scholarship Fund. The scholarship is funded by Roger and Karen Doerr and Barbara and George Schlothauer.