WARREN - At last check, Jeremy Krol's arm was still attached, and that means the 31-year-old former college pitcher will be throwing in the Warren AA baseball playoffs this week.
Krol is in his 13th year playing the Warren AA league, and despite being the elder statesman of the first-place Cardinals, he is still at the top of his game. Krol owns a 4-1 record with a league-leading 0.96 ERA and 42 strikeouts. Krol, a 2001 LaBrae graduate, first started playing after his first season at Malone College. He enjoyed it so much, he came back for another - and another and another ...
"Till my arm falls off," said Krol of how long he'll pitch in the league. "It's kind of weird being on a team where people are a decade younger than you. I keep saying I'm going to retire, retire, retire, but it never happens because you always get that competitive feel. Once pitchers and catchers report in the major leagues, and you watch some games, you just get the itch to play. So until I can't anymore, I plan on throwing, but we'll see how that goes."
And why not? The big left-hander can still get it done. He might not be the same pitcher he was back in the day, but he's still one of the best in the league - and has been for a long time. In 2008, he had one of the best seasons in league history. He struck out a record 109 batters, which is by far the most of anyone in league history (second place is 81 and third is 68, and both are Krol's marks).
"I had my own team, so I threw as much as I wanted," he said. "If my arm felt good, I pitched. I had three starts in the first week. I'm lucky my arm didn't fall off then."
Krol's actually never had a major arm injury, just general soreness and a "dead arm." And he doesn't seem to be slowing down. The Cardinals' manager, Frank Costello, has only been coaching Krol for two years, but he's been rather impressed with Krol's vast array of pitches.
"He has like five different pitches," Costello said. "He has the fastball, curveball, slider, cutter and an eephus pitch. (The eephus pitch) is unbelievable. When he throws it, everyone's in shock because he throws it like a softball pitch.
"He throws with location, he throws hard and he's a very, very smart pitcher."
Krol said he's never really had a "go-to" pitch that he uses when he needs a big out. While that hurts him at times, it also is a major plus because batters have no idea what's coming.
"There's things that work and things that don't every game. I wish I had something that always worked," he said with a laugh. "I had one guy tell me that I'm the only pitcher that really keeps him guessing last game. So I guess it works."
The Cardinals (19-6) enter the playoffs as the top seed. They've won back-to-back championships with Krol as the staff ace, and if they're going to win a third straight title, he'll be the man with the ball again.
"I have confidence in him, and the all the players behind him have confidence in him too," Costello said. "He just understands the game of pitching. In the championship game, I would pick Jeremy over anybody on my staff."
All games are played at Packard Park, and a schedule and statistics can be found at www.warrenaabaseball.com.