Baseball: Ex-New Trier player Klimesh making noise on college circuit
Former New Trier pitcher Ben Klimesh.
Updated: June 18, 2012 8:40AM
Being a baseball player at New Trier can be tough.
The Trevians are among the area’s best teams every season, and there only are so many positions on the field.
Ben Klimesh was a player who got lost in the program. The 2008 graduate was cut from varsity as a junior, and he barely played as a senior.
Now, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Klimesh is the best pitcher at NCAA Division III Trinity University, in San Antonio, and he’s most likely will play in the pros.
“I spent my senior year having to really prove myself,” Klimesh said. “Every year, New Trier has a great team, and I probably was the sixth-best arm on that team. I really had to work my way up to the top, and then I had a couple of rough outings. I never got much of an opportunity.”
Phil Apostle, Klimesh’s club coach growing up, said New Trier struck out with the big right-hander.
“I looked at Ben in the eye when he was 15 years old, and I told him he had a legitimate opportunity to pitch as a professional,” said Apostle, who runs Academy Elite. “He had these gigantic hands and gigantic feet, and an unbelievable work ethic and passion for the game. He also had a split-finger pitch that was untouchable. If he threw strike one, you were done.”
Although he was buried on New Trier’s roster, Klimesh found his way to Trinity. He was expected to pitch in the Tigers’ first game against Coe at the NCAA tournament in McMinnville, Ore., on Wednesday.
Klimesh is playing in his third NCAA tourney, and he’s looking to lead Trinity to its first regional championship.
“This is definitely my best year here,” he said. “I have seen a progression, both statistically and mentally, from my freshman year to this year.”
Entering the week, Klimesh was 12-2 with a 1.75 ERA in 97 2/3 innings. He surrendered only 67 hits while striking out 142 batters. He’s thrown eight complete games in 13 starts.
“I put a lot of work in the fall, mostly strengthening my arm and making sure the velocity is there,” he said. “But just being a senior has helped. There’s something to be said for repetitions. You really do learn from being out there a lot, and that’s something that’s helped me. I’ve been through a lot of stuff on the mound.”
Apostle remembers many stories about Klimesh dominating the summer circuit when he was a teenager. He’s not surprised at all by what Klimesh, who still owns the most strikeouts in Academy Elite history, has done in college.
“His character is unreal,” Apostle said. “I knew he was going to succeed at any level. If he gets drafted, he will move up. He’s so freaking competitive.”
The Major League Draft starts June 4. Apostle believes Klimesh, who’s never experienced arm trouble in his career, should go before the 15th round.
“He’s a project,” Apostle said. “He’s not a top-10 guy. He’s right-handed and still walks guys, but I think he’s among the top 100 pitchers in the draft.”