By Joshua Price/Sports Editor
Baseball players and fans across Etowah County doubtless remember Southside High School 2005 graduate Kyle Cofield.
Cofield was considered one of the hardest throwing pitchers in the county his senior year, consistently reaching 90-92 miles per hour on the radar with his fastball.
The Atlanta Braves drafted the 6’5, 210 pound right-hander in the eighth round (257th overall) in the 2005 draft and sent the hurler to the farm system.
Cofield added 30 pounds to his frame, bringing his weight to 240. The extra muscle had an immediate affect on the speed of his already blazing fastball.
“I started working out hard two years after I signed with the Braves,” Cofield said. “The velocity of my fastball started hitting 95-96 mph consistently. [Afterward], I quickly moved up in the Braves’ system.”
Cofield pitched for both the Mississippi (AA) Braves and Rome (A) Braves from 2005-2010. During his first year with the Mississippi Braves, Cofield was named Pitcher of the Year.
Cofield was traded to the Chicago White Sox organization in 2010 and moved to the bullpen full-time. Cofield’s strikeout numbers improved, but he suffered arm injuries soon thereafter and was released by the White Sox in 2011.
Cofield made the 40-man roster for both the Atlanta Braves and the Chicago White Sox.
Cofield signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization prior to spring training this season and is currently on the pitching staff of the Altoona (Pa.) Curve.
Cofield spent much of the off-season reshaping his body and conditioning his legs for an extended season on the mound. Cofield dropped his weight back down to 220 during the winter, but the velocity on his fastball has not changed.
He said his chances of moving up to the Major Leagues are good if he remains in the Pirates system.
“I have to stay healthy and keep working out. If I stay consistent [pitching] and stay healthy, I could move up quickly in this system. I did a lot of leg conditioning in this winter in case I do get called up. Hopefully I will get a call soon!”
Cofield worked as a starting pitcher early in his career, but learned quickly that pitchers must be versatile to stay on a professional roster. He said he is sticking to what he knows best – a fastball-changeup combination that produces groundballs.
“You’re not gonna teach this old dog new tricks,” Cofield said laughingly. “I plan on using what got you there. My fastball has lots of movement but I have to work hard to throw strikes because of it. I don’t have to think about it I just rare back and throw.”
Cofield is confident he can play a key part in a team’s success on the diamond.
“With my arm strength, I could play numerous roles for a pitching staff. Most clubs like tall guys for starting roles because they say their bodies can hold up longer. Out of the bullpen, my speed is good because.”
Cofield said the experience playing travel baseball opened the first doors to his professional baseball career.
“Travelball got me to where I am today. I played in the East Cobb (Ga.) league and my dad drove me back and forth over there and back. I learned a lot about the game and how to pitch in travel ball. Also, I had more scouts to look at me there.”
Cofield said the trip to success was not an easy one. Despite signing a professional contract straight out of high school, the hurler was not the most highly decorated Panther. He sends this message to all the aspiring young players in the county:
“You remember your failures more than your wins and you must learn from them. You have to get out and do something productive everyday in order to get better. Consistency is very important in success.”
So if you’ve been looking for Kyle Cofield, you won’t find him in Southside or anywhere in Etowah County for that matter. He is doing what he does best and loves most – playing baseball.
It was good to catch up with Kyle Cofield.
Joshua Price can be reached at email@example.com.