Cards draft pick has one mean pitch

By Brian Stull of St. Louis Baseball Weekly

(KSDK Sports) -- After helping St. Louis University High School to a 24-0 record during the regular season as a senior in 2011, Sasha Kuebel had the opportunity to realize his dream of becoming a professional baseball player. Chosen in the 31st round by the Oakland A's, the left-hander had his ticket in hand—but he didn't punch it.

Instead Kuebel honored his commitment to play at Iowa, major in finance, and kept faith that he would later be rewarded for his decision and still reach his goal. Now three years later, it has paid off as Kuebel was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 38th round of the 2014 MLB Draft.

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"There's nothing like it," exclaimed Kuebel, who wasted no time in signing his contract and had already arrived in Jupiter to prepare for play with the Cardinals affiliate in the Gulf Coast League (rookie).

"I told myself if something good happens, then I definitely want to pull the trigger…especially with the Cardinals, I was fortunate enough to be selected by them."

"It's awesome; it's a whole new world. I can't even explain the feeling right now."

The 6'1, 200lb left-hander got off to a strong start at Iowa—going 6-0 as a freshman with two complete games. He was named to the Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America team and second Team All-Big 10. But over the next two seasons Sasha went 8-13 in 26 starts.

"I didn't have the start that I wanted," admitted Kuebel of his last season with the Hawkeyes. "I didn't really have a good feel for my pitches but then sort of made some adjustments there towards the middle of the season—some good adjustments. I was able to make my delivery a lot more consistent so I was tipping pitches or anything like that."

One of the other key adjustments was going back to his roots—Kuebel dusted off a specialty pitch to get back on track.

"I realized back in my freshman year, I was using the slip-pitch and that's when I went 6-0," shared Kuebel. "Obviously, when you fail, you think about what you're doing wrong and what you can do better to turn it around. That was one of things that popped up in my mind—I've always had success with that slip pitch, why don't I throw it back in there. Once I did, it all kind of clicked and everything started working out pretty well."

Kuebel described the slip-pitch as a 12-6 where you don't break your wrist. He learned the pitch from former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Scott Terry.

"I took lessons from him for a couple of years. I would attribute a lot of my mechanics to him and my mentality as a pitcher, and so many things all about pitching that I've learned growing up; I attribute that to Scott Terry."

Besides the slip-pitch, Kuebel uses a two-seam fastball, which usually runs in the upper 80s and touches 90mph. He also has a cutter and change-up.

"Threw the cutter in there and the slip-pitch back in the arsenal; started hitting my spots a little bit more and once you do that, you start having some more success and start feeling a lot better about yourself and you help your team out a little bit more too."

Kuebel went 4-0 with a 2.15 over a stretch of five games with two complete games after those adjustments—which weren't lost on the Cardinals.

"In addition to the history we have on Sasha as a local guy, our area scout, Charles Peterson, raved about Sasha's pitch ability and competitiveness this past year at Iowa," stated Cardinals Scouting Director Dan Kantrovitz. "As a lefthander that can throw strikes and keep hitters off-balance, he should get an opportunity to move in our system. He's a great kid and I'm looking forward to seeing him pitch this summer."

"Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and the evidence of things not seen."

"That's definitely one of the quotes I tend to lean on the most," acknowledged Kuebel. "There's another quote—'I am second' I can't do anything without God in my life. Pray in the morning, pray good night. Anytime you thank God for everything that happens in your life, this obviously one of those situations where you give it all up to him. I can't do this by myself, so He makes it all possible."

"I was fortunate enough to go to St. Louis University High School, where in your senior year one of the graduation requirements is to work for an organization where we go out into the community and help them out." Kuebel spent a couple of months helping at St. Louis Arc. "It's a great experience giving back to the community and you make some great friends."

For Sasha, his faith—and ambition to become a professional baseball player merged as a freshman at SLUH during tryouts for the varsity baseball team.

"My number one goal and my only goal was just to make the team," recalled Kuebel. "That happened and from then on I've always been instilled with the mindset that you just take each day at a time. You try not to worry about the future too much. As long as you put the effort in, you work 100% all the time, everything's going to work out for itself."

With that kind of philosophy, it's not too surprising to learn who Sasha's favorite player on the St. Louis Cardinals was as he was growing up.

"I was always a big fan of David Eckstein," said Kuebel. "He obviously wasn't the most powerful guy. He wasn't a guy that everybody looked at and jaw dropped, like wow this guy's going to be a huge Hall of Famer instantly. I never looked at those kinds of guys. I looked at guys like David Eckstein just because of their work ethic--guys who were kind of under the radar."

"Disciplined, they were determined to be the best they could be—that's the guys that I've tried to model myself after."

Kuebel has yet to meet Eckstein, but with a little more of the same faith and effort, it's not out of the question the two could same day shake hands on the field at Busch Stadium.

Brian Stull will be contributing to KSDK Sports throughout the 2014 MLB season. Brian is the St. Louis Cardinals lead writer at St. Louis Baseball Weekly and is the host of the St. Louis Baseball Weekly radio show on CBS Sports Radio 920.


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