When your father plays professional baseball as a catcher for various teams around Major League Baseball you grow up throwing a baseball into a catcher’s mitt, and it’s only a matter of time until that friendly game of catch with your father becomes a passion that leads to playing division one baseball at the collegiate level.
Kyle Huckaby, freshman pitcher for the Eastern Michigan University men’s baseball team and son of Major League Baseball journeyman Ken Huckaby, grew up with a baseball in his hands. His father Ken most notably played for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox in the six years of his professional career.
Now Ken is the head coach for the Lansing Lugnuts, a class “A” minor league baseball team that plays in the Midwest League. The Lugnuts are affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays, which is also one of Ken’s former teams.
Kyle Huckaby grew up in Chandler, Ariz., playing both baseball and football in high school for Perry High School where he graduated and was a three-year letter-winner in baseball and a two-year letter-winner in football.
Huckaby holds Perry High School’s record in wins, strikeouts and earned-runs average, and also helped lead the school to its first playoff appearance since 2011. Kyle went 7-2 with an ERA of 2.50 in his senior year. Kyle also collected all-section honors as a pitcher and an outfielder during his senior as well as his sophomore year.
As a freshman pitcher at Eastern Michigan, Huckaby holds a record of 3-1, having made 14 appearances, and earning nine strike-outs in 33 innings pitched. Huckaby leads all freshman pitchers for the Eagles in appearances for the team.
Before bringing his talents to Eastern Michigan, Huckaby was tapped to play for junior colleges in his home state of Arizona, when head coach Mark Van Ameyde convinced him to change his mind.
“I figured there was a good shot that I was going to come in and be able to compete, and there were going to be spots open to compete for,” Huckaby said. “This is an opportunity to pitch at a division one school, so now it’s on my shoulders for me to take and run with it.”
And even though Huckaby is only in his first year, he is confident that he will be able to take one of the coveted “weekend starting pitcher spots” that are envied and strived for by potential starting pitchers for the Eagles.
“I knew I was going to get some shots, and the main goal was to prove myself as a guy in the rotation and as someone who can compete and pitch meaningful innings,” Huckaby said. “I know spots are going to open up, so that’s where I would like to see myself start next year, so that’s the goal.”
And as Huckaby’s statistics this season have shown, it’s that he is a pitcher that coach Van Ameyde can count on to get on the mound, get through innings effectively and have an impact on the game.
His father Ken also had an influence on Huckaby’s leadership abilities and how he carries himself while he’s on the field.
“He’s always been very mature, he’s a young freshman,” Ken said. “That maturity carries over with him to the mound and that makes me very proud to know that he’s giving it his all every time he goes to the mound.”
And Huckaby’s goal to become a weekend starter for the Eagles has been discussed and is made public to the people he talks to about his baseball career. Most notably, his goals and successes are shared with his father.
“It’s his goal to be a weekend starter, we’ve talked about that,” Ken said. “That’s one of his goals to be one of the guys that coach Van Ameyde throws on the weekend and he’ll work hard to get it.”
Determination is a trait that Kyle Huckaby doesn’t lack, and motivation to become a weekend starter hasn’t wavered with the lack of success that the Eagles are having this year. The Eagles currently sit with a record of 18-30 overall and a conference record of 8-14 and are at risk of missing the Mid-American Conference end of season tournament.
But regardless Huckaby still strives for success.
“I think as long as I keep doing what I’m doing, and keep working hard and improving that I should be able to get where I want and it’s pretty exciting,” he said.
Follow Robert Sherman on Twitter: @r__sherman