BRISTOL, Tenn. – A dream came true for former King University baseball player Mitch Stophel on Wednesday afternoon when he was selected in the Major League Baseball (MLB) First Year Player Draft. Stophel was selected in the 25th round by the defending World Series Champion Chicago Cubs.
"I just want to say thank you to everyone at King that helped me get to this point in my career," Stophel said. "King was the only offer I had out of high school, I couldn't be more thankful that they took a risk and gave me a shot. They saw my potential and helped me reach it. The coaching staff helped me develop in the pitcher, and man I am today, and I will be forever grateful."
Stophel becomes the first Tornado to be selected in the MLB First Year Player Draft since 2002 when King Athletic Hall of Fame member Dirk Kleinmann was selected in the 42nd round by the Toronto Blue Jays. The last Tornado to play in professional baseball was Cory Rhodes who was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in August of 2014. Rhodes played with the Jamestown Jammers and the Bristol Pirates.
"We recruited Mitch hard out of high school," King Head Baseball Coach Blaine Brown said. "He just started pitching his senior year of high school. He was very raw, but with a rocket arm. We knew if he ever figured it out he could be something special, and has worked so hard to get where he at."
This season, the Bluff City, Tenn., native led King with 19 appearances, a 4.74 earned run average and three saves. He tossed 38 innings and posted a record of 1-1 for the Tornado. In his career, Stophel tossed 116 and two-thirds innings and posted a record of 7-5. After coming to King from Tennessee High School, Stophel registered 93 strikeouts in his career, including 45 this season.
"It is awesome to see a young man going from our development team to a pro guy," continued Brown. "Just goes to show with hard work and preservice anything can happen. He is as good a kid as he is a ball player, and I am so happy for him and hope he continues his development and makes it to the bigs. What a story that would be. This is huge for Mitch, our program, and our University."
Check KingTornado.com to follow Stohpel's journey this year. The Cubs' rookie affiliate is in the Arizona League, the Arizona Cubs. The Eugene Emeralds are the Cubs' Class A short season affiliate, and the South Bend Cubs are their Class A affiliate.
"I would like to thank all of the teammates I had along the way, have asked for a better group of guys," Stophel finished. "I also want to say thank you to the faculty and staff at King that helped me get through school and get my degree. Let's get King on the map. Go Cubs."