By Conner Farrell–
Louisville Cardinal pitcher Kyle Funkhouser is primed for one final season in a Cardinal uniform. The 35th overall pick of the 2015 MLB draft decided to forgo the professional ball and come back to school. The starting pitcher from Illinois turned down an offer around $2 million from the Los Angeles Dodgers and decided to finish his education. Funkhouser is taking three classes in his final semester and is on track to complete his degree in the U of L Business School.
“The biggest thing I’ve been told before is you can’t place a price tag on a degree, I’m glad just to kind of get that out of the way, so if baseball doesn’t work out, I can kind of jump right into (another career), as opposed to not coming back to school and jumping right into baseball and playing a few years and then you’re twenty-five and out of baseball and still have a year of school left,” Funkhouser said.
Funkhouser said his agent and the Dodgers were kind of close to signing a deal in the summer, but it was “never really that close.”
This was a monumental decision and one that heavily factors into the Cards being ranked second nationally in the preseason polls. His junior year was one filled with many accolades: All-ACC first team, All-ACC academic first team and he was named a Louisville Slugger All-American third-team selection. He also led the Cardinals in innings pitched. Funkhouser went 8-5 with a 3.20 ERA and 104 strikeouts last season.
“Winning the national championship is every college baseball player’s goal, I don’t care what school you’re at, that’s the number one goal,” Funkhouser said.“Playing professionally is kind of the next goal in the future, but as of the here and now, winning a national championship would just be incredible, it would probably be the best day of my life.”
With national title hopes in mind, Funkhouser has retooled his pitches coming into this season. He has added more velocity to his signature fastball, while also working on a number of off-speed pitches. He also has more command of the those off-speed pitches and hopes to improve them as the season progresses.
Head coach Dan McDonnell said Funkhouser has become a leader on the pitching staff in his final year and continues to work with younger players. Though McDonnell said the expectations for the season wouldn’t change whether Funkhouser returned or not, he was excited to have his 6-foot-3 right-hander back on the mound for 2016.
“There’s no doubt there was a sense among our returning players that, ‘Wow, we just got Kyle Funkhouser back,'” McDonnell said. “We’ve got a chance to take that next step and compete to win a national championship.
“For the players, the coaches, the administration, the fans, and for the rest of the country, I think Kyle Funkhouser made a huge statement as to what he thinks this team can accomplish this year,” McDonnell said.
Many are anxious to see what this year has in store for the Cards, as well as many are eager to see what highly regard Kyle Funkhouser can accomplish in his final year. He is second in program history in wins and strikeouts.