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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Molnar continues to shine

Chris Real        
Photo: Perfect Game

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Kyle Molnar has all the tools and talents to be a great baseball player, and he has put those talents on display recently on a national level at two prominent events: the Perfect Game National Showcase and the 17u WWBA National Championship.

Molnar has come along as a pitcher and the gains he has made over time. At the National Showcase last month in Fort Myers, Fla., Molnar’s fastball clocked as high as 94 mph, and he topped out at 93 last Friday for CBA Marucci at the 17u WWBA National Championship in Georgia.

Molnar impressed PG scouts who noticed his arm speed, something Molnar has been working on. One PG scout wrote the following from the National Showcase:

Molnar performed as expected given his past performances at Perfect Game events, although his changeup looked a lot better than the last time we have seen him. His fastball sat 91-93 and reached 94 a few times. Molnar threw more 83 mph changeups than he did mid-70s curveballs, maintaining his arm speed well on the offering. He commanded all of his pitches well and worked quickly in his two innings of work.

During a post-game interview at the National, Molnar was pleased with his performance and said he felt good on the mound.

I felt good, it was different weather than I’m used to, but I had to adjust to it,” Molnar said about the Florida humidity. “My fastball was good, I was hitting most of my spots, I wanted throw my curveball for strikes, my strikeout pitch was the changeup and I got one of those. I felt like I had some good pitches today.”

For all of the strides that he has made over the years, taking a break from pitching and playing basketball during the offseason has helped him grow as a pitcher.

Many would think missing out on the opportunity to get more repetitions and stay consistent, but playing basketball allows Molnar to rest his pitching arm so it doesn’t get overused. It has allowed his pitching training to be more aggressive, said Intergalactic CEO of EM Speed and Power Training in Southern California, Ed Halstead.

Kyle is different than any other kid; basically he’s a basketball player. He plays basketball and baseball,” Halstead said about where Molnar gets his velocity. “So one of the things is his arm gets a little bit of rest during basketball season, which is good, and during that middle phase of finishing basketball and about to start baseball, we were able to work pretty aggressively on his shoulder stability and his arm speed.

So as long as we can get stability in his shoulder and feel comfortable that he’ll be able to improve his arm speed without getting injured. Upon testing him to find out how his shoulder stability is going and as it gets better and better, then we build arm speed into the program. And in places where he is taking time off we can get pretty aggressive.”

Halstead added that Molnar reached out to EM on his own after his dad heard about the program and once Halstead and Molnar met, they created a program designed specifically for him and went from there.

Even as a young pitcher, Molnar recognizes the importance of resting his arm during the offseason and building strength to keep him healthy. Another thing Molnar said EM is preparing him for is the next step after high school where he will attend UCLA.

I go to the gym and workout the stuff UCLA to work out to help you throw harder, all the things you shouldn’t do and all the things you should do,” Molnar said. “So I’m just doing a lot of stuff to keep fit and healthy during the season.”

One of the reasons Molnar mentioned why he chose UCLA was that it was far enough away from his home in Aliso Viejo, Calif., but still close enough to home to do his laundry and get a home cooked meal. Another reason is family.

I love when my parents and grandparents always come to my games,” Molnar said. “All my friends get to come up whenever they want and then hanging out and everything. I think it’s a great fit, they have a great coaching staff and everything.”

At the 17u WWBA National Championship, Halstead said he has seen a lot of growth in Molnar.

When he first tested, he tested out for us at 83-85 (mph),” Halstead said. “I think he just threw [in the mid-90s] in Georgia.”

Throwing hard isn't new to Molnar however. At his first Perfect Game event, the 2012 PG National Games, he peaked at 91 mph coming off of his freshman year of high school. Later that year, at the 2012 WWBA World Championship, he peaked at 92 mph competing with and against players that were 1-2 years older than him.

Those performances left a lasting impression, and led to Molnar being ranked No. 1 on the initial high school class of 2015 player rankings. He now is ranked 13th in what is shaping up to be a deep class, particularly when it comes to pitching.

But Molnar isn’t just limited to pitching. He also plays outfield and enjoys that as much as he does pitching, but also recognizes that his future is on the mound.

I love both,” Molnar said about whether he prefers pitching or playing the outfield. “If I can play both for the rest of my life I would. But one day outfield is not going to be there for me, but I’m going to do my best to play as long as I can.

Just helping out the team in the outfield and working on my hitting when I’m not pitching, having fun in the outfield and baseball is a fun sport and I like to do everything I can.”

If Molnar’s pitching career lands him a spot in the future with a National League team, his past experience of hitting may come in handy.

With so much scrutiny surrounding injuries to young pitchers at all levels of baseball, Halstead preached that consistency is the most important to keeping a young arm like Molnar’s healthy.

We were kind of after that shoulder stability so that he can be healthy longer,” Halstead said. “You’re going to have to have that good, healthy shoulder to withstand the arm speed that he’s throwing.

He doesn’t just have velocity; he has a good, strong joint. The kids that improve for us the most are the kids that are consistent and keep grinding it out.”

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