DAVID MAIR, Staff Writer
Atop the mound, with family and friends keenly watching, a young boy was ready to take on another batter.
During the game, the boy accidentally hit another player with the ball and after that incident, he became scared to ever pitch again.
Now standing at 6-feet tall on the pitchers mound, winding up his arm while pitching a warm smile to the fans is senior A.J. Konopaski, the top pitcher for Pacific Lutheran University’s Baseball Team.
The love of baseball began for Konopaski over the river and through the woods in the backyard of his grandma’s house, where his dad taught him how to catch as a boy.
“It’s a family thing,” Konopaski said, “filled with lifelong memories.”
It was not until high school when he realized what a strong arm he had. It was then at Port Angeles High School where he became a closer for the team.
“I was decent at baseball growing up,” Konopaski said. “I just grew and grew as I kept playing.”
During his senior year of high school, all of his hard worked accumulated together when he received All-American status.
“It was a crazy feeling,” Konopaski said. “You see all the others who have earned this award before me, it’s such an honor to now be among them.”
Though far less glamorous, Konopaski also received a back injury at the end of his high school senior season. As much as he loved baseball, playing in college simply did not look realistic because of his injury. Division I schools were not going to recruit him.
That was the time when PLU became Konopaski’s game changer.
“Nowhere else was going to take me,” Konopaski said. “PLU’s coaching staff believed in me.”
In his first year, Konopaski was doing everything he could to not get cut off the team. Four years later, he is a closer.
“Being a closer is a high pressure position, which is exactly why I like it,” Konopaski said.
As this season is his last as a Lute, Konopaski is looking to keep both his baseball and professional career open, in the hope to hit a grand slam in whatever field he ends up in.
Konopaski is majoring in business administration and hopes to work in corporate finance in Seattle one day.
The other option—being unsigned drafted upon graduation— is a “long shot,” Konopaski admits.
The team doing the most research and recruiting on Konopaski is the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays are seriously considering him as a member of the team next year, in hope that he can help their organization for the better.
“I’ve had a blessed baseball career,” Konopaski puts it humbly.
Thinking about what will happen after his last pitch crosses the plate is far from his main focus. Konopaski still has one last season to give it his everything because every time he steps up to the mound, his goal is to “be the best pitcher.”
“I feel good about this season,” Konopaski said. “The biggest asset of our team is our depth.” 🅼