A lone wolf in forgotten territory.
“It’s hard to be seen up there,” he said. “It’s kind of forgotten territory.” – Kam Mickolio quoted in the Seattle Times in 2011 about playing baseball in Montana
There are not many players who come from Montana and have made MLB. According to the baseball reference only 26 Montana-born players have enjoyed the opportunity of at least one inning pitched or at bat in the major leagues. Of those, 3-time All Star Dave McNally might remind the old-timers. The pitcher, who died in 2002, spent most of his career with the Baltimore Orioles and added one more year in Montreal, from 1962 to 1975, and pitched 2,730.0 innings. Ed Bouchee (rookie of the year runner up in 1956 for the Phillies) and John Lowenstein are perhaps less well known. I don’t know if the latter actually lived long in Montana, since he went to high school in California, but he shares two things in common with today’s random D-Back. just like Kam Mickolio he was born in Wolf Point, Montana, and both played (some time) for the Baltimore Orioles.
It shows how difficult it is for a kid from Montana to make just one MLB appearance. Mickolio encountered the difficulties that all children in this state will face if they want to fulfill their dream. Absent from any high school baseball circuit in the state, the young Mickolio played in American Legion Baseball, a competition organized since the mid-20s of the previous century, by a private non-profit organization of veterans . There he apparently played for the bandits of Belgrade, before graduating from high school in Bozemont.
He was a Golden Eagle in 2003 and 2004, playing freshmen and sophomores for the Utah State University Eastern baseball team. In 2003, after pitching to a 3.05 ERA, he attracted interest from scouts and was selected in the 2003 entry draft by the Cardinals in round 46, but decided to pursue his college career. In 2005, he made a switch and joined Utah Valley University to become a Wolverine.
He’s barely doing well as a junior and senior in the independent NCAA, throwing at a 7.98 and 5.30 ERA with an SO/9 that doesn’t go over 6. Still, he’s caught rather ‘early in the 2006 entry draft, when the Seattle Mariners took him in the 18th round. Why?
“An 18th-round pick last year at Utah Valley State, Mickolio has only been pitching for four years. Not only did he not first take the mound until he was nearly 18, but his home state of Montana doesn’t have organized high school baseball, so his experience in sport in general is extremely limited. At 6-foot-9 and nearly 260 pounds, he’s as intimidating as a pitcher can be, and he’s already made great strides since signing by adding speed to his fastball, which is now hitting 96 mph. , while also developing a slider that projects as a plus step. He still has a long way to go when it comes to throwing strikes and smoothing out his mechanics, but hide his name as a deep sleeper. At 6-foot-9 and nearly 260 pounds, he’s as intimidating as a pitcher can be, and he’s already made great strides since signing by adding speed to his fastball, which is now hitting 96 mph. , while also developing a slider that projects as a plus step. It has a long way to go when it comes to throwing strikes and smoothing out its mechanics, but put away its name as a deep sleeper. – Baseball Prospectus in 2008 on Kam Mickolio
6 feet 9 inches. It’s just an inch under Randy Johnson.
The move to professional baseball and the move to the bullpen worked wonders for Kam Mickolio. The year he was drafted, 2006, he pretty much blows away batters with his A+ pitches and by the end of 2007 he had already reached Triple A and PCL, increasing strikeouts and limiting hits.
Mickolio, 23, has added several miles per hour on his fastball since college, which he says is due to better mechanics and greater strength. […] “He’s just more proof that players come from all rounds of the draft, not just first picks.” – Seattle Times in an article in 2011 on Kam Mickolio and quoting the Mariners Director of Player Development
The wolf becomes a bird.
The Seattle Mariners decide to take advantage of the track record and what little recognition Mickolio gets and he’s part of a high-profile trade with the Baltimore Orioles that sends starting pitcher Erik Bedard to Seattle and a bunch of prospects in the league. other direction, including Mickolio, but which future All-Star (and former D-Back) Adam Jones headlines.
The Orioles appeared to be less optimistic of Mickolio than the Mariners and debuted him in AA in 2008, but was promoted to AAA in July and, after pitching to a 1.80 ERA, made his MLB debut on August 20 in a game against the Red Sox that same year. He gives up a run in the 8th inning, but it’s more than enough to secure an 11-6 victory for the Orioles. He continues to throw in 7.2 innings and the results aren’t great with an ERA of 5.87, but his FIP is much more promising at 2.61 and in early 2009 FanGraphs listed him as one of the club’s top prospects:
“After the Bedard trade, Kam Mickolio went from a rarely talked about sleeper to a Major League player and intriguing prospect who could play a key role in 2009. […] He may hit the mid-90s with the radiator and could be in line for a set-up role in 2009.” – FanGraphs in 2009 on Kam Mickolio and the Orioles’ top prospects
In 2009, Mickolio started again at AAA, but he was continually moved up and down between Norfolk and the major league side. The pitcher shows he has nothing left to prove in Triple A and also has good numbers in MLB: a 2.63 ERA (2.58 FIP) is good enough for a reliever. The only thing holding Mickolio back from long stints at the highest level is his uneven control: his BB/9 is closer to 5 than 4: awful.
“[…] the 6’9” monster is still far from a finished product. His control is mainly to blame […]. He also relies heavily on a pitch (his fastball 80.3% of the time) but his slider also shows great promise. […] If everything clicks into place – and he can bring his ground ball count back to a reasonable pace – then Mickolio could get closer to the O’s.” – FanGraph in 2010 on Prospect #8 Kam Mickolio
At the end of 2009, shoulder problems began to bother Mickolio, something that reappeared in the 2010 season. This could be an explanation for his difficulties in the 2010 season, where he was unable to live up to expectations. His speed has dropped a mile and batters are starting to reach his pitches and the reliever is throwing to a terrible 6.37 ERA in AAA and 7.36 in MLB. He only makes 3 appearances at the highest level.
The wolf turns into a snake.
The Diamondbacks are looking to ship a group of players in the 2011 offseason, after a 90-plus losing season. One of them is the strikeout king, but slugger Mark Reynolds. In a roster clearing and cost-cutting move, Reynolds is traded to Baltimore during winter meetings (along with PTBNL John Hester), in what becomes the Diamondbacks’ first trade with Baltimore (only 6 overall) . The main piece to get from Baltimore was David Hernandez, who would later become one of Arizona’s favorite relievers. Mickolio is a pitcher and a possible change of scenery candidate.
Kam Mickolio has an unspectacular 2011 spring training, too spotted by Jim McLennanbut beat Esmerling Vazquez for a spot on the opening day roster and immediately jumped into action on April 2, pitching a clear 7th inning at Coors, where the D-Backs lost 3-1 to the Rockies.
Two days later, he was less fortunate when he gave up two doubles in a game against the Chicago Cubs, recording just one out. He is scored for 2 points and fails to keep the game close, with the Cubs extending their lead from 2-1 to 4-1, which is ultimately the final score.
Six days later, he pitched two clean innings in first relief in a home game against the Reds, but the wheels fell completely two days later in a game against the Cardinals.
Mickolio comes into the game with a 9-5 lead in the 6th inning, but struggles with his command a lot. He throws just 21 strikes on 37 pitches in 0.2 innings of work. He gives up 3 points along the way and the D-Backs need Joe Paterson to pull out the endgame. After that game, the Diamondbacks picked him for the Reno Aces. In late May, the Diamondbacks called on him again and despite going scoreless in two games, control issues increased again in his last outing against the Astros. His speed also took a noticeable drop, and the Diamondbacks picked up Reno’s reliever again and decided not to use him for the rest of the season. His performance for aces isn’t all that bad though: Mickolio achieves an ERA of less than 5.00 but removes homers enough for NPB teams to show some interest.
The rising suns.
At the end of the 2011 season, Kam Mickolio got a release alias was sold to Japanese NPB’s Hiroshima Carp in November. The Carps are a low profile team in NPB and are not expected to compete. But on a team that also features future Dodger Kenta Maeda, Mickolio easily makes the closest role his own. If the batters match his pitching repertoire, the pitcher is prone to home runs, but the hits, walks and strikeouts are all the best on his team and he is one of the best relievers in all of NPB. The following 2013 and 2014 seasons were not as good as his 2012 season, walks increased again while strikeouts decreased, but the results were good enough to secure the closest job, although Mickolio ended his time in 2014 with Hiroshima on the injured list: a hip injury prevents him from participating in the play-offs.
In 2015, Mickolio became a Golden Eagle again, albeit this time with the Japanese Rakuten. He’s supposed to become their new closest, but at the start of the season, the right-hander has to undergo surgery to repair a herniated disc, which pretty much knocks him out for the entire season. Once he returns, he has lost the closest job. In the 2016 season, he is healthy, but is not given the closest role. After 5 years in Japan, Mickolio decides to return to the United States in 2017.
He signed, rather late in May 2017, a minor league contract with the Minnesota Twins and headed for extended spring training. He was assigned to AAA, but quickly went to injured reserve with a shoulder injury and did not return until the end of the minor league season.
The injury probably persists. He does not return in 2018, but in 2019 appears in the independent league Long Island Ducks. The results are however catastrophic and after only one month, he decides to retire.
After his retirement, Mickolio resettled in Arizona and joined his wife and their family there. After a lifetime of traveling and chasing his dreams, he now likely supports his wife’s dreams, Tiffany, who started her own real estate agency in 2018 and specializes, as its website states, in “serving the greater Phoenix area and the 15 major league teams that spring train there, serving baseball players and other high-profile sports and entertainment personalities.
As you see with most random former D-Backs, baseball has always served his long-term life in one way or another.