Hackettstown's Kimball Pitching His Way Back to the Majors
Former Hackettstown Tiger Cole Kimball debuted for the Washington Nationals in 2011 before season-ending surgery and is back on the mound this spring.
Cole Kimball, a graduate of Hackettstown High School, was sleeping early
one morning in upstate New York in May, 2011 when he got a telephone call that would have seemed unlikely when he was a senior in high school.
At the time Kimball was a pitcher for Triple A Syracuse, the top farm club of the Washington Nationals. He did not allow a run while pitching for Syracuse and that May he got a call from Randy Knorr, then the manager of Syracuse, to let him know he had been promoted to the Major Leagues for the first time.
“I remember not getting a lot of sleep,” said Kimball, standing by his locker in the Washington clubhouse during spring training in Viera, Florida last week.
Kimball, 27, pitched in 12 games out of the bullpen for Washington in 2011 and had an ERA of 1.93 with a record of 1-0.
Now he is trying to get back to the Major Leagues.
He had season-ending right rotary cuff surgery on July 13, 2011 and last year he pitched in a total of six minor league games with four different teams.
“I feel good right now. Everything is back to normal,” he said the day after pitching against the Houston Astros in a spring training tilt. “I am not going to forget about last year but will (try and) put it out of my mind.”
Kimball, a 6-foot-3 right-hander, said he planned to enter the U.S. Marine Corps out of high school.
He attended St. John’s one year and then transferred to Centenary College, a Division III baseball program.
Kimball was 11-9 with an ERA of 3.70 in two years there and was among the top four in strikeouts and ERA in school history when he was drafted in the 12th round by the Nationals in 2006.
He is not the only Division III product who has pitched for the Nationals in recent years. Starter Jordan Zimmermann went to a small school in Wisconsin.
One of the few Warren County products to make the big leagues, Kimball worked his way up the minor league ladder with Washington with stops in Vermont, Hagerstown, Maryland, Woodbridge, Virginia, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and Syracuse before making it to the big leagues.
Washington lost 103 games in 2009 but last year won 98 games, the most in the Majors, and captured the National League East title before losing to the Cardinals in the playoffs.
“It is a really unique adjustment to see where the team is now,” Kimball said. “Even the adjustment from when I was on the team in 2011 to not is a total transition. It has really come together. The team is clicking on all cylinders and it is really cool.”
Many experts are picking the Nationals to make it to the World Series this season.
Kimball played in the minors with several players who helped Washington win the division last year, including Drew Storen and Steve Lombardozzi.
This spring Kimball had a record of 0-0 with a 2.84 ERA in his first 6.1 innings and had allowed just three hits and three walks with seven strikeouts.
“I think it's a tribute to him and as hard as he worked, because I think he's back," Nationals manager Davey Johnson told Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) early in spring training. "He's certainly got a good future, so I'm going to be keeping a close eye on him. He's been throwing exceptionally well.”
Making the Opening Day roster will be a challenge on a team that has many strong arms in the system.
“That’s an understatement,” Kimball said. He said his out pitch is a fastball, and Kimball hopes to return strong in 2013.
His brother, Madison, also played baseball at Hackettstown High School and is now an outfielder at Northampton Community College.