Kohl Stewart readies for MLB Draft
Houston will have the first pick in this year’s Major League Baseball Draft, and one local high school athlete who grew up rooting for the Astros is expected to go in the top five overall as a right-handed pitcher.
Senior Kohl Stewart has left quite a legacy at St. Pius X High School. He helped lead the Panthers to a TAPPS Class 5A state title in 2012 and back to the state championship game again this season before falling to Argyle Liberty Christian, 6-1, at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Tex.
Stewart has already committed to play baseball at Texas A&M, but he is also a four-star football recruit who chose to play with the Aggies before his junior year.
“I just knew. I didn’t want the drama, especially in recruiting,” Stewart said. “I committed to Coach [Mike] Sherman – he and I had a great relationship both parents graduated from there and I felt like it was home for me, so I didn’t want to wait. Coach [Kevin] Sumlin and I have developed a really good relationship.”
Even though this two-sport star loves both baseball and football, it’s baseball Stewart has played most of his life, beginning with the Banditos, a select team in Tomball that consistently churns out major league talent, when he was eight years old. That was also the age at which he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, which is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. But it hasn’t hindered his ability to play sports over the years.
“It’s actually been a blessing,” Stewart said. “I watch what I eat – I know more about what I put into my body and I’m more cautious. It made me be more disciplined about what I do every day from an early age, so it definitely helped me more than it hurt me.”
Stewart dabbled in football a couple of times during his young life, and when he finally tried to play the sport full time his freshman year in high school, he broke his collarbone and missed most of the season. However, he came back strong his sophomore year to win the starting job at quarterback and make quite an impression, proven by his early recruitment by several Division I schools before choosing Texas A&M after his sophomore year. And Stewart believes the demands of playing high school football in Texas have helped his success on the mound.
“Football is just a different game,” Stewart said. “It’s so much more violent. Throwing the football has actually made my arm stronger. My arm has been able to withstand anything.”
On the diamond, Stewart mostly played third base growing up but has excelled at other positions as well, including center field and short stop. Pitching wasn’t really on the radar in his early years.
“I was a pitcher when I was younger but I wasn’t really considered anything special in pitching,” Stewart said. “When I got here, Mas [his high school coach Adam Massiatte] put me on the mound and gave me some pointers and trusted me, and it has kind of worked out well.”
Massiatte trusted Stewart because of what he saw the first time he witnessed Stewart play the summer before his freshman year of high school. Stewart gave up a few hits and had bases loaded and then struck out the next three batters.
“Right there we knew at the 18U level and him being 14, we knew we had something special,” Massiatte said. “Our first impression – really athletic, can be a short stop, center fielder, pitcher, hitter, great arm, so our evaluation of him was an all-around help to the team in any way he could be as a freshman.”
With older, more experienced pitchers on the St. Pius staff, Stewart continued to rotate positions. He played center field more regularly his sophomore year when the starter was hurt, but he still continued to pitch and improve on the mound as well.
“I didn’t throw any kind of curveball or changeup when I was younger.” Stewart said. “My sophomore year I had a fastball and slider and that kind of got me by. I wasn’t as dominant but my slider was a good pitch and I still throw that now.”
“He came in as 14-year-old and was throwing about 84-85 miles per hour,” Massiatte said. “His sophomore year, he was 88-91 and junior year, we could tell this kid had a polished arm and developed more pitches along with his fastball. So, his development each year, they were big jumps.”
After winning the state championship his junior year, Stewart added a curveball and changeup this past season.
“My curveball actually became my out pitch,” Stewart said. “It’s probably one of my favorite pitches to throw, and my changeup is a situational pitch. I throw it whenever I need it.”
“His arsenal is tremendous and depending on the day, it could be even better,” Massiatte said. “Usually he goes to a fastball. He’s got a changeup with a lot of depth in it. He’s got a curveball and a slider. His slider definitely has big league action on I, and it’s a pitch that shows he is a talent because he can throw it about 85-88 miles per hour, and not many people can do that.”
And now he’s become a talent that is rated as the top high school pitcher in this year’s draft on June 6-8.
“I like to pitch,” Stewart said. “I’m a control freak. It’s kind of in my hands a lot of the game – that’s the biggest way I can impact the game I feel like.”
It's that intense competitiveness that sticks out to scouts. They also describe him as highly athletic with excellent raw tools – the ideal pitcher's frame with an intriguing arm.
The big decision
“My dream is to pitch in the big leagues,” Stewart said. “That’s always been my dream, especially since I pitched when I was young – I just wanted to play in the big leagues really.”
Although Stewart was invited to attend the Major League Draft, he chose not to go.
“We want to watch it as a family and I want to watch it with my friends,” Stewart said. “I want to enjoy the moment with the people that have always been there for me, and it’s kind of hard to get nine people to New York because my family is so large – I’m one of seven kids.”
Stewart has talked to all 30 major league teams and believes he will go early, and when he finally hears his name, he knows he will have a huge decision to make.
“Obviously, there are a lot of variables in that decision,” Stewart said. “I think comfort level depending on who takes me, looking at how they’ve developed other people in front of me. Obviously, Texas A&M is going to have a lot to say about it and then some prayer and guidance from my parents.”
Stewart says he doesn’t want to make a decision based on money, and he has continued to voice his commitment to attend and play at Texas A&M leading up to the draft.
“I’m at real comfortable spot with them right now,” Stewart said. “They’ve been first class about everything they’ve done for me and with baseball. Everybody knows the draft is coming up and all that stuff is going to weigh in on what happens with me in the future, but I can’t thank A&M enough. They’ve been first class.
“I think the decision will make itself apparent, I really do. It will shape out at the end.”
Baseball video shot by Allen Reid and report edited by Leigh Ann Kirkland