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Kindreich ‘grateful’ for opportunity after Rangers pick

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Larson Kindreich had the makings to be the kind of baseball prospect some major league team might try and pluck away while still in high school.

Despite historic success at Crater High, that didn’t happen.

He had the good fortune of turning 21 within 45 days of last year’s first-year player draft to make him eligible as a college sophomore at Biola University, but that MLB draft was limited to five rounds amid the COVID-19 pandemic and, again, his name was not called.

The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Kindreich approached this year’s draft, which ran Sunday through Tuesday, as Baseball America’s No. 159 prospect and No. 246 on MLB Pipeline, but even then he knew there were no guarantees.

“You’re always hopeful that something like that is going to happen,” he said Wednesday of being drafted into the major leagues. “It’s been what I’ve wanted since I was a little kid. I think every year you kind of go in with the hope that it will happen and then as things progress there’s kind of the highs and lows, but I felt like my hopes were up for most of it this year.”

Those hopes finally came to fruition when the Texas Rangers selected Kindreich in the eighth round with the 224th overall pick.

It was a moment the left-handed pitcher said he won’t soon forget.

“My advisor texted me moments before the pick came in and said I was getting picked,” the 22-year-old standout said of Monday’s moment. “Shortly after that the draft tracker popped up with the Rangers and there’s my name, that was a pretty surreal moment. I don’t really know how to describe it. It was pretty cool.”

Kindreich got to share in that moment with his family here in the Rogue Valley, nervously waiting through a host of picks as his expected timetable came around Monday.

“It’s such an unpredictable process,” he said. “You can have your plan or expectations or what you hope will happen, but the draft is a really unpredictable thing. Stuff changes and you just kind of have to roll with it and hope for the best.”

Whether Kindreich could have heard his name any sooner didn’t matter much to him.

“For me, the opportunity is what’s important,” said the 2018 Crater graduate. “I’m really humbled and very grateful that the Rangers would think to pick me so I’m excited to make the most of the opportunity.”

In three seasons at Biola — with 2020 shortened due to the pandemic — Kindreich has posted an 11-5 record and 4.02 ERA as a starter, with 199 strikeouts and 60 walks in 136 2/3 innings.

Still just a sophomore after spring sports athletes were not charged with a year of eligibility in 2020, Kindreich has the option of signing with the Rangers or returning to Biola for a junior season in hopes of raising his profile for the 2022 MLB draft.

The bonus slot value for the 224th pick this year is $191,500.

“It’s good to have good options, for sure,” said Kindreich. “We’re still really early in this process. I still have a lot to talk about with the organization, but we’ll see how things shake out, it’s just a lot to sort through. It would definitely be really cool to be able to wear the Texas Rangers name on my chest.”

Kindreich said he hopes to get everything cleared up in short order, and had nothing but good things to say about the owners of his draft rights.

“I’ve been really impressed with the Rangers organization, I think they do things the right way,” he said. “It’s hard to go wrong with a lot of these organizations, they all know how to win and they know how to develop talent and get the most out of the guys that they draft. I think it will be a great opportunity.”

Last year, Kindreich started the season with 25 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings and didn’t allow an earned run in all 30 of his innings pitched, setting NCAA-era program records at Division II Biola with each result.

He was named Pacific West Conference Pitcher of the Week over each of the first three weeks of the 2020 season, and finished 3-1 in five starts with 48 strikeouts and only five walks for the Eagles.

Kindreich took similar hopes into this past spring season, which was also limited due to California’s travel restrictions and Biola’s cautionary approach to its athletic seasons, but understandably couldn’t repeat such success.

“That is a tall order when you talk about allowing no earned runs,” he said, “but I think if you don’t set goals for yourself that are maybe a little difficult to achieve you kind of get complacent. You don’t want to be unrealistic, either, but I think it’s important to strive to be your best and put your best foot forward at all times, so I don’t think it was asking too much.”

Kindreich posted a 3.33 ERA in 54 innings this past season, striking out 79 against 21 walks as he battled through some inconsistencies. His fastball has always had good velocity, sitting in the 92-94 mph range, and he’s worked to develop a change-up and curveball that have each shown above-average flashes.

“Especially after the season I had previously, you set the bar pretty high for yourself,” he said. “Baseball’s a grueling game, it’s difficult even for the best guys in the pros and you see them struggle, so I think the more you can learn from not only when you have success but also from when you don’t meet your own expectations or the expectations of others and how you respond to that is really important.”

“It helps you mature as an athlete and that was something I think I went through a little bit this year of not quite living up to some expectations,” he added, “but I think I learned a lot more through that. I’m grateful for some of the struggles or the inconsistencies this year and I look forward to learning from it in the future.”

Kindreich remains confident in his abilities and potential to make it in the major leagues, and certainly isn’t done in his quest to be better tomorrow than he is today.

“I’m just going to continue to fine-tune the craft of being a pitcher,” he said of his immediate attention. “It’s an art and there’s a lot to it. There’s a lot of specific things that are not only unique to the individuals but also the organization you’re with and the competition level that you’re at.

“I’m excited to hopefully be around some people who are a lot smarter at baseball stuff than I am and some really talented players and see what I can kind of soak up from them by being in that type of environment. I’m really looking forward to the future and how things start to progress and develop.”

Have a local story idea? Reach sports editor Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

Former Crater High pitcher Larson Kindreich was selected Monday in the eighth round of the MLB draft by the Texas Rangers as the No. 224 pick overall. Photo courtesy Biola University
Former Crater High pitcher Larson Kindreich was selected Monday in the eighth round of the MLB draft by the Texas Rangers as the No. 224 pick overall. Photo courtesy Biola University
Former Crater High pitcher Larson Kindreich was selected Monday in the eighth round of the MLB draft by the Texas Rangers as the No. 224 pick overall. Photo courtesy Biola University