Typically, when I write a piece on a Chicago kid getting drafted in the MLB First Year Player Draft, I mention the high school he attended in the title. In this case, I probably shouldn't. Ben Klimesh was cut by his high school, New Trier, as a junior, despite an 86 MPH fastball and, as one Dodger scout put it who saw him later that summer, "a major league splitter, now." On the summer club circuit, -- boasting teams that recruit from multiple high schools and states -- Klimesh proved to be one of the best 17-year-old arms in the Midwest. I should know, I coached him at AcademyELITE Baseball.
Klimesh made the Trevians roster his senior year, but threw just 15 innings, leaving many college coaches to wonder whether the then 6'2'' 180 pound righty could pitch in college. Tim Scannell, the head coach at Trinity (Texas) University, had no such concerns, throwing Klimesh into the fire as a freshman. He threw 34.2 innings in 2008. The Illinois native struggled to find the zone, but also no-hit Notre Dame through five innings. The stuff was there, just not the command.
When he got to Texas, Klimesh focused on everything he could off the field to make his on field play better. He put on 40 pounds of muscle, grew two inches, developed a long toss program and changed his mechanics. His efforts resulted in his fastball topping off at 96 MPH that he could locate in and out to go along with a power curve, change up and that super freaky splitter.
Last season, all his hard work paid off, as the now 6'4'' 220 pound Klimesh was named the
NCAC SCAC Pitcher of the Year and quickly was put onto every draft board across the country. He only kept climbing this season when he was named the NCAC SCAC Pitcher of the Year again, also adding a First Team All-American award to his trophy case. In 2012, Klimesh posted an almost cartoonish 13-3 record with a 1.71 ERA, 154 strikeouts, 40 walks and just 77 hits in 110.2 innings over 15 starts, nine of which he completed. The strikeouts and wins led the nation for ALL divisions.
On Tuesday, Cincinnati selected Big Ben in the 15th round. An interview with the newest member of the Reds following the jump.
Z.W Martin: When did you know the Reds were going to draft you? Did they call you before to discuss financials or did you learn just like the rest of us?
Klimesh: They actually called me early in the 14th round. Standard call. They asked me if I would sign for this much? And I said, "Yeah, of course." So I expected to be drafted in the 14th round. It was 15 picks from when they were calling me and when the Reds were up. They skipped over me in the 14th round, so I though I would be looked over again by the Reds. Finally they got me in the 15th round. I was on the phone with the Red Sox when I was drafted, so I actually didn't hear my name. I had to tell the Red Sox guy, "I apologize. I just got drafted by the Reds." I'm getting all these text messages and I finally look at one from my coach and it said "Big Red Machine!!." So I was pretty pumped up about that.
Z.W.: So my "fuck yeah" text wasn't the most polite one you got?
Klimesh [laughing]: No.
Z.W.: What were you thinking when you found out?
Klimesh: Part of it was just a huge relief. The draft process is a roller coaster ride. I got a call from the Nationals in the 7th round that they were ready to grab me. Nothing happened. I got two calls from the Rays and the Diamondbacks in the 9th round, both said they were ready to grab me in the 10th. Nothing came of that either. So, you get to a point where you really can't trust these scouts that are drafting you. I understand where they are coming from. They are trying to cover all their avenues just to make sure they are not making a surprise pick that they're not expecting. It is definitely a roller coaster ride. The feelings are definitely relief -- I was relieved that the whole draft process was over -- and the other thing was pure excitement. I couldn't be happier to be with the Reds organization right now. And really I cannot wait to get out there and play again.
Z.W.: How are negotiations going?
I'm pretty far along. I'm ready to get out there and sign a contract.
Z.W.: Any discussions on where they want you to start out?
Z.W.: Dayton's got a really cool stadium. It's, like, built into the city. It's pretty fun there. You will be shocked there's a stadium there, because there's shit all around it. (Author's note: I'm really poetic when I talk.)
Klimesh: Dayton's a great town.
Z.W.: Last questions: Am I the coolest coach you've ever played for?
Klimesh: You're definitely up there.
Z.W.: Up there? Son of a bitch.
Klimesh [laughing]: Here's the thing. I was a little young to go out with you and to really see what you have to offer. In my college years, I played with some coaches I was able to go out with, but I will say you are up there with the best of them. And we got to go out soon to see.
Z.W.: That we will. Thanks Ben. Good luck in Arizona.
Klimesh: Thank you.