Kevin Kopps‘ goal has always been to pitch in the MLB, but his father knows there is another dream his son has obsessed over.
“He was big into WIFFLE ball from the time he was eight or nine all the way through (his) high school days,” said Rick Kopps, Kevin’s father. “He’s spent a lot of time putting together plans of his perfect WIFFLE ball stadium that he wants to build some day when he owns some land.”
Those plans have stuck with him till this day, even when things were tough. Kopps, who is a relief pitcher for the Arkansas baseball team, had Tommy John Surgery in 2018. And the road to recovery was not an easy one.
“The rough spring he had in 2020 was kind of hard to take,” said Rick. “He’s put in a lot of hard work, of course, (that’s) no surprise… I’m really proud of where he is today.”
Hard to take is no understatement. In 2020, Kopps appeared in seven games, posting an 8.18 ERA in 11.0 innings pitched. He had nine strikeouts that year before COVID-19 cancelled the season. Confidence and belief in his game was something Kopps says was hard to find after that.
“I’ve kind of struggled with that most of my career just wondering if I was good enough,” admitted Kopps. “And I think this is the first year that I’ve actually been excited on the mound and smiled.”
There’s a lot to smile about.
In just a year, Kopps has turned into arguably the best relief pitcher in the country. He’s pitched nearly 50 complete innings and through that, the Sugar Land, Texas native has a perfect 7-0 record, a 0.72 ERA, 83 strikeouts and just four earned runs.
His game is now full of confidence and his father can see the visible change in his son on the mound.
“(Kevin’s) always been more of an introvert. Never really a vocal guy on the field,” Rick said. “But it’s good to see him show a little more emotion. I’ve enjoyed seeing that.”
The dreams of building his very own WIFFLE ball stadium still remain for Kopps, but his dream of reaching the major leagues inch closer and closer with every pitch he throws. And his father knows it will happen.
“It’s been an aspiration for quiet some time. Of course he’s excited to see it happen and as I am to try to see him live out that dream a little bit further,” said Rick.
But for now, Rick doesn’t even want to think about the MLB. He doesn’t even want to think about the College World Series. He says he’s lasered focused on the upcoming series against No. 4 Tennessee starting on Friday.