Kopp steps onto 2nd big stage

Photo: Ronan Kopp (Perfect Game)

Jeff Dahn
Published: Monday, August 5, 2019

SCO0TTSDALE, Ariz. – It wasn’t too much of a drive for the kid from just up Loop 101 in Scottdale to the heart of downtown Phoenix. But when Ronan Kopp walked into the Diamondbacks’ Chase Field in mid-June to take part in the Perfect Game National Showcase, it almost felt like he had entered another world.

“That was the first showcase that I’ve ever done, and especially doing that one, it’s probably the best one (PG has) showcase-wise,” Kopp told PG while competing at the 17u PG World Series the last week of July. “Doing that with all the other Arizona kids and some of the other guys that I’ve come across playing baseball, and just hanging out with them and competing with them.

“It’s more of a friendly competition … and it was really fun just being able to do that stuff; I really, really enjoyed it.”

And the PG National enjoyed having Kopp in attendance, too. Hundreds of scouts got to see the 6-foot-5, 200-pound hard-throwing left-hander fire fastballs that sat 88-92 mph and topped out at 94, while also showing an 80 mph slider, 77 mph change-up and 76 mph curve. Kopp climbed to No. 35 overall (No. 5 left-hander) in PG’s national class of 2020 prospect rankings after the outing.

His fastball had touched 93 at the PG Upperclass West MLK Championship in Glendale in January so he was definitely on the PG scouting department’s radar, but his showing at the National solidified his standing as one of the best. An invitation to the upcoming PG All-American Classic in San Diego – to be played at the Padres’ Petco Park – followed, and another dream had been realized.

“When I first found out, it was pretty insane,” Kopp said. “… It’s a huge  blessing to be able to do this because it’s another chance to really have fun playing baseball.”

Kopp just celebrated his 17th birthday on July 28 which makes him one of the youngest All-Americans at this year’s Classic. His dad, Thomas, was with him at the 17u PGWS – Kopp was playing for Rex Gonzalez and AZ T-Rex Easton – and he, too, was excited about his son being invited to the big show in San Diego.

“It’s one of those things where you work and you work and you work as hard as you can to get to certain places and when you finally accomplish that goal, it’s not only an individual accomplishment but it’s going to be a family one, as well,” Thomas said. “We’ve done everything we can to prepare Ronan both mentally and physically and pushed him in the directions he wanted to go.

“This is a fantastic opportunity and we’re very humbled by the opportunity to be able to perform with and play against so many other good players.”

The 17u PG World Series was the ninth PG tournament Kopp attended, so he was no stranger to elite-level competition going into the National. He was at the PG WWBA 17u West National Championship in Surprise before throwing at the 17u PG World Series and spent several days in between at a church-sponsored camp in the Ventura area of California just for an opportunity to kick back and relax for a few days.

He’s earned entry onto three all-tournament teams during his PG career, playing with the Milwaukee Scout Team-Canada, GBG NW Marucci and AZ T-Rex Easton.

Kopp attends Scottsdale Christian Academy where he plays for 14-year MLB veteran Tim Salmon. It’s a program that won the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AiA) Class 2A state championship last spring with a 25-1-1 record. Kopp finished 8-0 with a 0.41 ERA and struck-out 118 batters in 51 innings pitched and was named the Gatorade Arizona High School Baseball Player of the Year.

“Scottsdale Christian Academy, I love that school with Coach Salmon,” Kopp said. “It’s a really great baseball environment with the great coaches that are there. I just really like the school and just the fact that I’m going to be a senior this year is really nice.”

He also trains and works out at X2 Athletic Performance, a facility in Scottsdale that is run by Luke Hagerty, the 37-year-old left-hander who this summer attempted to revitalize his career with the Chicago Cubs. Kopp works with several people at X2 and he credits them with helping him improve his game.

Kopp has committed to Arizona State, the University located in Tempe, which like a natural fit for this kid from next door in Scottsdale. Kopp immediately formed a strong relationship with head coach Tracy Smith and recruiting coordinator Ben Greenspan and didn’t balk when they made the offer.

“Meeting with them for the first time, I clicked with them really, really well,” he said. “It was really great meeting them and talking with them because they got my mind set really well and even gave me some constructive criticism. … I recently met with their new pitching coach (Jason Kelly) and he’s really awesome; he’s a fellow lefty, which is great.”

Thomas Kopp said he and his wife Melody have built a very tight-knit family around Ronan and a younger daughter Tommie.

“We celebrate together and we mourn together whenever things don’t go the way we wanted them to go,” Thomas said. “We make sure that every goal is a family goal and when Ronan accomplishes something not only is he excited about it but we’re excited for him.

“He  works very hard, so just to see him continue to progress and get better, it’s been an amazing opportunity to watch him develop not only as a player but as a young man,” he continued. “He’s got a very good ‘team’ built around him that really watches out for what’s best for him and what he wants to do.”

Kopp enjoyed having the opportunity to play in a few games at the PG WWBA 17u West National Championship and the 17u PG World Series as he starts to wind down his summer.

“It’s nice to be able to come out here and showoff my skills a little bit more to Perfect Game,” he said. “I want to see if I can (my) rankings up a little bit higher because I’m used to everything now.”

His next stop, even before San Diego, will be in Long Beach, Calif., where he’ll perform at the Area Code Games beginning Aug. 5. He’ll then be ready for the Classic and everything that comes with it, including the annual visit to Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego.

“He’s actually as excited about going to the children’s hospital as he is about playing in the game,” Thomas said. “Again, we’re a very God-loving, God-fearing family and he looks to help others before he likes to help himself. …

“He’s very excited about the whole situation. It’s a once in a lifetime thing and he’s just really looking forward to the opportunity to be a part of the entire atmosphere at the All-American Classic.

Ronan Kopp started his summer performing at Chase Field, the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks during the PG National Showcase. He’ll wrap it up pitching at Petco Park, the home of the San Diego Padres, in front of national television audience, no less.

Those are two pretty good bookends to what has been a remarkable summer for the kid from Scottsdale.

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