Adam Kudryk, newest D-Back, made long trek back from shoulder surgery
*It was a team effort when Adam Kudryk (middle) was felled by a torn labrum in 2008. The lefty had help from SST strength coach Rick Boutilier (left) and Ryan Armstrong, head pitching coach at The Baseball Zone.
Ask those who have coached Adam Kudryk what the 6-foot-6 left-hander’s biggest asset is and they’ll likely mention his competitiveness.
“He was a fierce competitor,” said Scott Van de Valk, who managed Kudryk last summer on the Intercounty Baseball League’s (IBL) Mississauga Twins. “He pitched with a blind enthusiasm. It didn’t matter who was on the other side. If it was the ’27 Yankees, he believed he would beat them.”
Ryan Armstrong, who has worked with Kudryk at The Baseball Zone in Mississauga, agrees.
“He’s a very competitive kid,” he said. “Every time he has the ball he competes and he works really hard.”
It was Kudryk’s competitive zeal that helped him overcome a potentially career-ending shoulder injury to land a contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks this March.
The determined 23-year-old inherited some of his drive from his father Peter, who was a defensive end on the Grey Cup-winning 1972 Hamilton Tiger Cats. Raised in Etobicoke, Kudryk started playing baseball when he was around three, but he was equally committed to football until he was 18.
“I was in and out with baseball,” recalled Kudryk. “I was playing football at high school (Michael Power St. Joseph High School). I didn’t even play baseball during my last year of high school.”
And when Kudryk was on the diamond, he was preferred to play first base, a position that offered him the opportunity to play every game, as opposed to pitching every four or five games.
“I really didn’t specialize in pitching until I was around 18,” he said. “I went into The Baseball Zone and they started working with me.”
When Kudryk started training with Armstrong (Mississauga, Ont.), his fastball was clocked in the 76-to-78 miles per hour range. But in just under a year at the Mississauga facility, Kudryk was able to add 10 miles per hour to his fastball.
This increase in velocity helped Kudryk (Toronto, Ont.) earn a baseball scholarship to Texarkana College in 2007. After a solid season at Texarkana, Kudryk transferred with pitching coach Chad Massengale to Weatherford College the following year. That season he would evolve into the staff ace, winning six games, before being sidelined with a torn labrum.
“I was pretty crushed when I first heard the diagnosis because I was told that I had some opportunities to get drafted out of college,” reflected Kudryk.
His spirits sank further when he was told that it would take a minimum of 12 months to recover and there was a chance he’d never pitch again.
But it wasn’t long after the surgery that Kudryk decided that he wanted to resume his pitching career. He started working out at The Baseball Zone again in late 2008, participating in their Sports Specific Training (SST) program, a regimen that provided him with a strict diet and workout routine. He didn’t begin throwing again until six or seven months after the surgery.
“There were definitely periods of frustration on his part,” recalled Armstrong of Kudryk’s rehabilitation. “There were days when I know he was down there throwing and I could see from up here in my office that he was upset.”
But Kudryk’s competitive fire helped him through his setbacks and by the end of the rehabilitation process, he was throwing harder than he did before the surgery. After not being ready to pitch in 2009, he won five games and was named an all-star for the IBL’s Mississauga Twins in 2010.
“I think what we saw from the start was his ability to throw three quality pitches,” said Van de Valk, the Twins as a one-year wonder of a manager. “His changeup was very good. His fastball was very good on certain days, but like anyone coming off an arm injury, you’re going to have some days that are better than others. He always had his changeup and his breaking ball in his back pocket and when he had all of them working, you could tell he was something special.”
At the end of the IBL season, he was clocked at 88 miles per hour at a Major League Scouting Bureau camp and was invited to another camp the following February. At that session, he hit 90 miles per hour on the radar gun
“I got a call the next day from the Diamondbacks’ scout Steve Oleschuck, inviting me down to an overage free-agent tryout camp in Scottsdale (Arizona),” recalled Kudryk.
At that camp, in early March, Kudryk threw 91 miles per hour and was signed by the Diamondbacks. While excited about his baseball future, Kudryk is still somewhat shocked at what has transpired over the past two months.
“I didn’t see myself here,” he said over the phone from Arizona in early April. “Before I went to that Scouting Bureau camp, I wasn’t even sure what I was going to do this summer. Before I threw in February, I wasn’t even sure if I was going to go back to Intercounty or if I was going to try for an independent team. In a month’s time, everything changed.”
Though he broke his right thumb during a practice earlier this spring, Kudryk has resumed pitching and hopes to rise through the Diamondbacks’ minor league ranks this season.
“Playing rookie ball would be OK, but I think I want to get to low-A or high-A this year,” he said. “I’d like to get to at least A ball this year and get a shot up there and see how I do and then go from there.”
For their part, Armstrong and Van de Valk (Georgetown, Ont.) believe that Kudryk has a chance to pitch in the big leagues one day.
“I’d love to see him get the opportunity. From what I’ve heard from scouts, even his slider and changeup have gotten better,” said Armstrong, also known as “The Magic Man.”
Van de Valk is similarly hopeful for his former pitcher.
“It’s still a long road to the big leagues from where he is, but he’s a left-handed pitcher,” he said. “He’s tall and he can touch 90 and that puts him in a small line. That puts him in a very unique category, and after what I saw last year, I wouldn’t rule anything out.”