Krol Proving You Can Go Home Again

CEDAR RAPIDS - Left-hander Ian Krol is only a year removed from high school baseball, but he is already looking comfortable as a professional starting pitcher. The Naperville, Illinois, native is having fun and pitching well for his hometown Kane County Cougars.

Kane County left-hander Ian Krol never could have expected that he'd be spending his first full year of professional ball at a place he had so many great memories as a kid. One of those was throwing out the first pitch at a Cougars' game on his ninth birthday.

This weekend will be the 10-year anniversary of Krol's initial toss at Elfstrom Stadium, as the 6-foot-1, 170-pounder is turning 19. He'll at least spend his birthday at home, but it will be in the Cougars' dugout as teammate Robert Gilliam will take the hill against Peoria.

So far, Oakland's seventh-round pick from last year's amateur draft is relishing his homecoming in the Midwest League.

"It's pretty funny because I talked to some friends the other night who were at a game and they also happened to be there when I threw out the first pitch," said Krol.

"It's ironic how everything happens. Now here I am almost 10 years later playing for the Cougars."

The Naperville, Illinois, native has settled in as one of the top starters in the Kane County rotation, and he is sporting a 1-1 record and 2.67 ERA through 27 innings. Krol recorded his first professional victory on Wednesday, firing six scoreless innings and allowing just four base-runners against Burlington.

"It's been pretty hectic making the adjustment to everything, but I absolutely love my job so it couldn't get any better," Krol said of his experiences thus far.

"I'm trying to keep my walks down, spot my pitches up and improve with my curve ball. I have decent command of my (fastball, curve ball, change-up) right now. I messed around with a slider and cutter, but I really don't think I need them right now. When I get to the higher levels I'll need a fourth pitch."

Oddly enough, Krol has pitched better away from his friends and family. He has a 1.29 ERA in four road starts this year, but a 7.50 mark in two home outings. He returned to Kane County with a 12-inning scoreless streak over a pair of starts in Burlington and Cedar Rapids.

The A's showed a lot of confidence in assigning the 18-year old to Low-A ball as a first-year pro. Especially since he didn't have the benefit of a senior season of high school ball and pitched just 4.1 innings in Rookie ball upon signing with the team.

"I'm sure if I wasn't ready they would have kept me in extended (spring training)," he said.

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