Showcase | Story | 6/14/2013

Texas teens totally up to task

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Kolek brothers from Shepherd, Texas, are as quiet and polite as the stroke of midnight in the East Texas plains, preferring instead to let the hum of their fastballs do the talking.

2014 right-hander Tyler Kolek and his 2015 brother Stephen Kolek were late invitees to this week's Perfect Game National Showcase and Perfect Game Junior National Showcase, respectively. But upon their arrival they nearly stole their respective shows with the strength of their performances reverberating off the ceiling of the Metrodome with the thundering noise of a Texas stampede.

Tyler Kolek is a 6-foot-5, 240-pound senior-to-be at Shepherd High School, while his "little" brother, Stephen, checks in at 6-3, 180 in the summer before he'll start his junior year at Shepherd High. The brothers haven't been very active on the Perfect Game tournament or showcase circuit, although they were Houston Heat teammates at last year's PG WWBA 16u National Championship.

Last Monday, at Quik Trip  Park in Grand Prairie, Texas, the Kolek brothers not-so-quietly got their names out there amongst area scouts with electric performances at the Texas Rangers Area Code Games Tryouts. According to one scout that watched their outings, Tyler Kolek threw 96-99 mph "with more 99s than 96s" and Stephen Kolek was in the 90-94 mph range.

They were hustled onto a plane pointed toward the Twin Cities Wednesday morning, and Stephen pitched at the PG Junior National Showcase that night; Tyler pitched at the PG National Showcase Friday. With their participation in two of the largest and most heavily scouted upper class and underclass showcase events in the country, the Kolek boys' names are now really, really out there.

"I'm here to be seen, to get out and be more known, I guess," a soft-spoken Tyler said two days before he pitched at the National. "I'm very excited about being here."

He didn't disappoint. His fastball sat in the 93-95 mph range throughout his two innings of work and topped out at 97 during his Friday afternoon outing. He struck out the side in his second inning with a fastball that never dropped below 95 mpg with, according to a PG scouting report, "a plus slider with good, sharp break sitting 78-81 and a curveball up to 76."

Stephen Kolek was named the top pitching prospect at the PG Junior National after a two inning outing in which his fastball sat in the 88-90 mph range with a low-80s slider. "With his long, athletic frame, Kolek was able to generate good downhill action on his heavy fastball," a PG scouting report read. "The ball leaves his hand effortlessly (and) Kolek threw exclusively from the stretch in his two innings."

Stephen Kolek was named the top pitching prospect at the Jr. National Showcase.

"I enjoyed myself out there," said Stephen, who like his brother, doesn't see any sense in wasting words. "I kind of figured that was what it was going to be like, and it wasn't my best (outing) but I felt pretty good. I've mostly been a pitcher all my life; after T-ball we went to select ball and every since we started select ball it just kind of took off."

Tyler also got his start in T-ball and blossomed once he reached the rung on the baseball ladder when there was actually a pitcher involved. He said he got all of his baseball instincts from his dad's genetic pool.

"My dad's side of the family all played baseball -- my mom (Brenda) didn't play much baseball; she couldn't throw at all," Tyler said with a grin.

"I played a lot of baseball but I never played at a high level like they're doing here," father James Kolek, who traveled here with the boys for their short three-day, two-night stay, said Wednesday. "We didn't have the opportunities and there really wasn't select baseball when were growing up."

While James spent three days in the Metrodome this week -- the trio returned home shortly after Tyler's outing on Friday -- he couldn't help but shake his head when thinking about the elite status his sons have reached.

"This is a dream come true for them to be able to compete at this level," James said. "You get a lot of attention, but that's kind of what you want and it's what everybody wants, really, is for their kids to really be able to compete and put themselves into a position where they can go to the next level."

The velocity Tyler's fastball has achieved is what really has the scouts talking, and James has heard the talk loud and clear. "(The attention) kind of escalated really fast after he got over 95 (mph); everything changed, it was like all the rules changed," he said. "And then when he got right at about 100 there, everybody instantly kind of became your best friend."

And to think it might have been an injury this spring that helped Tyler reach those dizzying velo heights. "I actually broke my arm during the (high school) season so I got a three month break. When I came back (the velocity) just steadily increased quite a bit."

James Kolek is the manager at the nearly 10,000 acre Trinity River Land & Cattle Company’s Red Angus ranch just east of Shepherd and about 50 miles north of Houston. James said his sons developed a strong work ethic helping out at the ranch as much as their school and sports schedules allowed, and were much more involved when they were younger, traveling the country showing cattle.

"Tyler was actually extremely good at that and he did a lot of it, but then it kind of went away because we had to spend the time on other things; we just couldn't do everything," James said. "Showing the cattle had to kind of fall to the background because Tyler played football, played basketball and then baseball, but he plays baseball probably 60 to 70 percent of the time and the rest is a little bit of football and little bit of basketball. Now, baseball has kind of taken over completely."

Tyler has gone through the college recruiting process and has verbally committed to Texas Christian University, so it is the attention from the professional scouting community that is new to him. Stephen is just now starting to hear from colleges and said that TCU has been the school that has expressed the most interest.

Both young prospects plan to spend the summer playing in the Houston Heat organization and probably won't be spending a lot of time on the ranch. And that's just fine with their dad.

"I'm a firm believer in that you're only young once and you're going to have the rest of your life to work," James said. "I love to have them work (on the ranch) but I also understand that there's a time when they need to do what they need to do and take care of themselves. I can't play sports anymore and I realize that, and I also realize they can only do it when they're young. I'm not going to get in the way of them."

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