Alumni Update: Keegan Hucul
Keegan Hucul is junior left-handed pitcher at University of Texas at Arlington (NCAA DI). He played for two years at Seward County Community College in Kansas. He helped the Saints reach the NJCAA DI World Series in his freshman year earning the save in the clinching game. He followed that up by earning 2nd Team All-Jayhawk Conference Honours in his sophomore year, going 9-2 with a 2.99 E.RA. Keegan hails from St. Albert, AB and was a member of the inaugural Prospects Academy squad in 2009-2010.
You had an ulnar nerve injury after summer ball, but other than that how was your first semester at UT Arlington? How is rehab going?
My first semester has honestly been the best time of my life up to this point. Through my experiences with teammates, friends, coaches, and school I have had an absolute blast and have learned many things along the way. It's been an incredible grind but it really is just getting started because once spring rolls around the competition starts and that's when it gets fun. Judging from what the returners say and from my past junior college experience the spring is ten times more exciting than the fall and that is something to definitely look forward to.
As far as my rehab, it's coming along great. I'm on a strict, progressive, throwing program where I have ten minute throwing sessions three times a week, mixing in all my pitches, as well as long toss on the days between and the weekends off. The arm feels great and it's been a slow fall regarding that aspect but the thought of a fast-approaching spring gets me excited!
You eluded a little bit to your time at juco. You had two very solid years at Seward County. What was the highlight for you?
I had many unforgettable memories at junior college that not only shaped the pitcher I am, but the person I am as well. Easily the number one highlight at Seward was my freshman year, regional tournament final game in Wichita, Kansas, against conference rival Colby. I got the ball in 5th inning with the score 5-3 and put up zeroes the rest of the way and helped lead my team to a second Juco World Series birth in school history. I'll never forget that dogpile. Although I did have some more success on the mound my sophomore year nothing tops that final game.
There is absolutely nothing better than a dogpile.* What changed for you between your freshman and sophomore years where you were able to compile a 9-2 record and earn All-Conference Honours?
I honestly think it was more of a mental thing. Having ex-Saint and ex-Arkansas Razorback, Christian Kowalchuck, there sharing his former team's weight program helped enormously with my physicality and my sustained strength throughout the spring. I attribute a lot of my success to that because I feel that it also allowed me to become mentally stronger as well. The fact that no bodily ailments were ever on my mind allowed me to just focus on pitching and making the next pitch. You know, I almost knew what to expect because I was a sophomore and I really just had no worries out on the mound. The biggest thing I can think of is the whole mentality aspect of how I felt relaxed, comfortable, and focused.
It must have been really cool to reconnect with Kowalchuk after having spent some time with him back in the earlier days of the ACBF with the Rustlers.** If you could give any advice to the pitchers in the academy now what would you tell them?
Ya it was awesome to reconnect. Having someone like that to relate and put things into perspective a little more was crucial. Just a piece of advice I'd give to the younger guys is don't doubt yourself. For me, the minute I would get hesitant ... or kind of unsure, I would lose focus on what I was trying to accomplish in the present moment even at practice and in the weight room. This applies even to a greater extent when it comes to pitching because when you are out on the mound and you suddenly don't feel comfortable in your ability the speed of the game picks up, you start making bad pitches, and you lose control. I'm no professional but whenever I found ways to take control of things like this I had the most success. There are guys at this level (DI) who throw upper 70's and aren't very physical but but they know they can get guys out. They don't doubt their ability, and that's the advice I'd give.
That's some great advice that I know our guys will benefit from hearing. One last question, what sticks out to you about your time with the Prospects Academy? Any favourite memories or aspect of the program that laid the foundation for your successes in college?
In my year of the Prospects (09-10) it was just a bunch of great friends who loved playing with each other. I mean there were so many memories I don't even think I could pinpoint one. We were just a bunch of dudes who had unreal team chemistry and who loved playing together and most of whom moved on to play college baseball. An aspect of the program I liked was really its close-knit nature. Everybody, including the coaches, were always on the same page whether in the off-season or on big trips. The way the program was set up it allowed us to always be together as a team and this really fueled our success on the diamond. I got a lot of innings that year, got stronger in the weight room, and it was for those reasons that I decided to stay back a year in the first place. It really ended up being the best decision I could have made because there are always situations down here that make me glad I made that decision. I'd say the program itself laid the foundation for my success in college. Two things that really stood out to me was the trip to Nashville and the Jayhawk Tour. Maybe my best personal memory was pitching five good innings against Seward and McSpadden (the head coach) approaching me. That's where it all started for me. On both these trips we had good competition and it also paved the way for me as far as what to expect south of the border.
I'm sure the alumni as well as present academy members would agree wholeheartedly that the program creates a very tight-knit group of players and coaches; a family even. Keegan, thanks for taking the time to do this and we look forward to seeing you over Christmas break. All the best as you continue your rehab and good luck in the spring.
*Pitching Coach Taylor Burns' Hutchinson Blue Dragons beat Seward County in the Region VI title game in 2010 to go to the World Series, a year before Keegan would go.
**Keegan Hucul and Taylor Burns spent 4-years with the ACBF program from 2003-2007 when it was known as the Rustlers Baseball Academy and Christian Kowalchuk who was a few years older spent some time with the program as well before moving on to Seward County and eventually Arkansas.
Keegan about to get dogpiled on ...