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Draft : : Story
Zach Kenyon trying to salvage his career
Jim Ecker    
Published: Monday, March 29, 2010

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Zach Kenyon turned down approximately $300,000 from the Kansas City Royals after he was selected in the ninth round of the 2007 draft, opting to enroll at the University of Iowa instead.

Kenyon, a 6-foot-6 right-hander, has struggled during his three years with the Hawkeyes and might never see that kind of bonus money again, but he's confident he made the right decision.

"Looking back at my freshman and sophomore years, I had a lot to learn, a lot of maturing to do," he said. "I didn't think jumping into pro ball after high school was necessarily the right thing for me, as far as the maturing process goes.

"And since being here in college, I've learned so much and I feel so much better as a player, being able to go out there and pitch. And I feel so much stronger," he said. "So overall, I think college has benefitted me a lot."

Kenyon, 21, had a 1-3 record with a 7.52 ERA in 25 innings as a freshman, then compiled another 1-3 mark with a 7.20 ERA in 40 2/3 innings as a sophomore, hardly numbers you'd expect from a ninth-round draft choice.

He's doing better this season, with a 1-1 record and 4.62 ERA in 25 1/3 innings, including a quality start against the Texas Longhorns when he allowed only three earned runs in 5 2/3 innings with six strikeouts. In his most recent outing, however, he allowed six runs in five innings against Western Illinois, failed to hold a 6-2 lead and left with a no-decision.

"My command wasn't really there," he said after pitching against Western Illinois. "I gave up some big hits."

Kenyon is 3-7 overall with a 6.53 during his three years in college. He's draft-eligible again this year, but there doesn't seem to be an abundance of interest from pro scouts, aside from filling out a few questionaires. "That's about it," he said.

There's still time to impress the scouts, of course. Iowa Coach Jack Dahm plans to use Kenyon as his Saturday starter in Big Ten games, meaning he's ticketed to pitch Game 2 of a three-game series for the Hawkeyes (8-12).

Before the season began, Perfect Game USA rated all the top prospects in Iowa and thought Kenyon had a chance to be drafted anywhere from the 4th through the 10th round this June. That remains to be seen.

"I think I have a lot to prove," he said. "The last two years haven't been the most successful, but like I said, I've learned a lot from those two years and it's probably been the best learning experience as far as what I've been through. But yeah, there's always something to prove. There's always something you can do to get better, so I'm looking forward to it."

When Kenyon pitched at Perfect Game's Pre-Draft Showcase in 2007 as a senior at Davenport Central (Iowa) High School, he threw an 89 mph fastball and sat in the 87-89 range. This past Saturday against Western Illinois -- three years later -- he was in that same range of 87 to 89, although he reportedly hit 91 earlier this month against Texas in warmer weather.

Looking back, Kenyon admitted he was tempted when Kansas City offered him $300,000 to sign when he was 18 years old.

"Yeah, very tempted. They gave me a great offer," he said, adding the organization treated him in a first-class manner. "It was hard to say no to them, but overall I felt that it was the best decision I could make."

Kenyon was flattered by the attention, flattered by the ninth-round selection, flattered by the offer.

"It was nice to be thought of that highly coming out of high school, but really that's in the past. I'm looking forward right now," he said. "If it happens again, it happens. But right now I'm focused on making Hawkeye baseball successful."

Kenyon said he's healthy and feels great as he continues to work on his craft.

"This is probably the best I've felt since high school -- body-wise, mentality-wise," he said. "I'm a lot more confident than in the last few years. I've learned a lot."