Every pitcher who has ever picked up a baseball has struggled through a rough inning. Pat Kaminska is no different, and has tussled with a turbulent career defined by one word: Comeback.
Kaminska was not picked during the 2014 Major League Baseball draft. However, the Central Michigan University baseball alumnus and right-handed pitcher signed with the Texas Rangers organization on Wednesday.
Not getting drafted was devastating to Kaminska, who has stared retirement in the face multiple times and worked tirelessly to increase his chances of making it to “the show.”
An offseason injury following the Chippewas’ 2012 campaign – Kaminska’s junior year – forced the pitcher’s career into jeopardy.
Opting out of surgery, Kaminska decided to travel the grueling road of rehabilitation in hopes of one day being a big league pitcher.
The 2013 season was when things looked the most bleak for “PK,” as his friends and teammates affectionately call him.
With his still tender shoulder not fully healed, Kaminska suffered another injury. This time it was an elbow strain during a start against Buffalo in the spring of 2013.
He would be shut down for the season. It was all happening again.
“I was off the radar,” he begrudgingly recalled.
A medical redshirt was Kaminska’s only hope of being able to play big league ball. The paperwork seemed unlimited. The days dragged on.
Finally, Kaminska got his letter from the NCAA – the pitcher had been granted his medical redshirt and one more year of eligibility at CMU.
Seizing the opportunity, Kaminska pitched himself to an 8-3 record and 2.47 ERA in 2014. For the first time in months, Kaminska was healthy and throwing with beaming confidence.
Then came the draft. Kaminska was excited. He had just orchestrated an incredible year.
Yet another twist of fate dealt Kaminska one more haymaker. Stunned, he watched helplessly as round after round in the draft passed. His phone was silent.
The draft ended. His baseball career was on life support – again.
“I was flagged (by MLB teams) because of my medical history,” he admitted. “It was a really frustrating feeling. I felt great. I had worked so hard to get back to a place where I was stabilized and could go out there and do my thing. It just didn’t make any sense.”
Kaminska consulted his pitching coach, Jeff Opalewski, but still, no answers made sense.
“‘PK’ is like a little brother to me. I just hurt for him,” Opalewski said. “I tried to explain to him that baseball is not a fair game. I don’t know why he didn’t go. It just left a bad taste in my mouth.”
Then, just as it has for his entire career, the door to professional baseball creaked open.
“I was laying in bed the next morning (after the draft) when the scout from the Rangers called me,” Kaminska said. “He asked me if I would be willing to sign as an undrafted free agent. He told me we were going to make this thing right.”
A few days later, the native of Phoenix would be touring the facilities of the Rangers’ Arizona League club.
“It was by far the happiest moment in my college baseball coaching career,” Opalewski said. “Every organization has their own philosophy on how to approach a situation like this. I’m just really happy for him considering what he has been through.”
Though Kaminska’s career as a Chippewa is over, the legacy he left on CMU’s program is sure to last for years to come.
“Younger guys on our team see what he has been through and get inspired by it,” said head coach Steve Jaksa. “His career here was a roller coaster, but he learned from us and we learned from him. That is something I think all of us will remember about those years.”
Looking back, the 23-year-old embraces both his turbulent past and exciting future.
“I guess this is just how things are for me,” Kaminska said. “It’s just really incredible how I can come somewhere like CMU and have so many people invest so much time and effort into my development and all of my struggles. As I go on, I am not just playing for me, I’m playing for them, too.”
Kaminska suits up for the first time with his new family on June 20, with his old one proudly looking on.
“Some guys who go undrafted have a chip on their shoulder. Not PK. I know he will appreciate this opportunity,” Opalewski said. “He just loves to prove everybody wrong. It’s what he has been doing for years now.
“He knows better than anybody that tomorrow is not guaranteed.”