As Alex Kirilloff tightens his hands around his bat, readies his feet in the batter’s box and looks toward the pitcher, he can feel the eyes. They’re all on him.
Fifteen scouts representing Major League Baseball teams line the fence close to home plate. They watch Kirilloff intently.
But it’s not a game. We talkin’ about practice.
It’s not often batting practice becomes an event for a baseball player in the WPIAL. Then again, it’s not often a player comes through the WPIAL like Kirilloff. The kid could be a multi-millionaire by the time summer comes around. That’s what first-round picks in the MLB draft get. Kirilloff, a senior at Plum, is being pegged as a possible first-rounder.
It is fascinating what batting practice has become at Plum because of Kirilloff. It is a spectacle. Scouts – and even general managers – from all around the country have come. When Plum went to Florida to play a few games to start the season, 30-some scouts came to the first BP session. There were “only” 15 there for Monday’s BP before Plum’s home game against Franklin Regional. Among them was Jim Leyland, a former MLB manager who still does some work for the Detroit Tigers. “I wanted to see this kid,” said Leyland.
Kirilloff is a 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior outfielder (he also plays pitcher).The interest in him is so strong that Kirilloff has now taken to emailing area scouts for all 30 MLB teams to let them know when his next BP session is scheduled.
“Just to save the hassle of 30 people texting me about it,” said Kirilloff. ”It’s just easier for me to do it rather than one of my parents.”
Many times, Kirilloff’s father, Dave, will throw BP to his son before a game.
“When people are sometimes flying all the way across the country for just one day, they make it a point to see you in batting practice,” said Alex Kirilloff, “because you never know what they might get in a game. You might get walked three times.”
Kirilloff takes BP with a wooden bat. But he also hits in games with a wooden bat, which is certainly unusual for a high school player. Just about all players use metal bats.
Kirilloff’s taking BP is like the game before the game. It can be fun to watch. On Monday, he took 21 swings – and hit 11 home runs. No one else on Plum hit one out. So much for the pressure of all those eyes on him.
“I did start getting nervous a little before it,” said Kirilloff. “But you just take a deep breath and try to calm down and pretend no one is there. If you think about it a lot, it can get to you.”
After Wednesday’s game, Kirilloff was hitting .586 (17of 20) with seven doubles, two triples and a .966 slugging percentage. He was 3-0 as a pitcher with a 0.38 ERA.
It’s not often you see a high school baseball team forfeit a section game in the middle of the season, but that’s what Moon did last Saturday when the Tigers forfeited a game against North Hills.
The situation was that Moon already had the game moved from Friday to Saturday because of the school’s junior prom Friday. Students attending the prom had an early dismissal at 11 a.m. Friday. Well, Moon coach Todd Goble ended up calling a practice during the day. Some players did not come to school at all and practiced.
Moon officials would not comment, only releasing a statement that said the forfeit was because “students were ineligible due to a violation of school rules regarding practicing during regular school hours.”
100 in a row?
Can a losing streak be a centenarian? Call it what you want, the losing streak of the Aliquippa baseball team is about to turn 100.
The Quips are 0-5 this season and their losing streak is now at 99. Aliquippa hasn’t won a game since the 2008 season.
And so continues one of the ultimate conundrums in WPIAL history. How can a school have a football team with the most championships (16) in WPIAL history, and a basketball team with the most championships (12) in WPIAL history, but also have a baseball team with one of the longest losing streaks in WPIAL history in any sport?
• North Hills has been one of the surprise teams in WPIAL baseball, sitting in first place in rugged Class AAAA Section 1. The Indians haven’t won a section title in 14 years. Fueling the team is senior pitcher-infielder Brendan Burke, who is having one of the best all-around seasons of any player in the WPIAL. Burke is batting .500 (12 for 24). As a pitcher, he is 4-0 with 31 strikeouts in 26 innings and his ERA is 0.26. He has allowed only two runs (one earned).
• Tor is on a tear for Peters Township. Tor Sehnert, a 6-foot, 190-pound junior outfielder, has 11 hits this season and nine have gone for extra bases. Sehnert is batting .355 (11-31) with 6 home runs, 2 triples and 1 double. His slugging percentage is 1.096.