By Jim Lane
CURVE,Pa.—Unlike many professional baseball players, Curve pitcher John Kuchno was not a high school or college star.
In fact, Kuchno was more into basketball as a schoolboy, playing two years of hoops and only one year of high school baseball at St. Paul’s in Baltimore.
“I grew up playing basketball all my life,” Kuchno was saying recently at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
Kuchno’s road to Double-A Altoona has been unusual, to say the least.
“I went to Wake Forest as a regular student,” he said. “I had no affiliation with the baseball team. I transferred to Ohio State after one year and played there for two years before I was drafted.”
An Ohio State assistant coach saw Kuchno while he was pitching for a Baltimore-area summer league team in Indianapolis and the rest is history.
“I was recruited the summer after my freshman year,” he recalled. “l was playing summer ball near my home with a team I always played on growing up – a county travel team… nothing big, nothing spectacular.
“I grew three or four inches my freshman year in college and that contributed to me getting recruited,” he said. “Ohio State saw me in a tournament and liked me, I guess. I visited the school and really liked it”
So Kuchno, now a 6-foot-4, 235-pounder, became a Buckeye and was drafted in the 18th round by the Pirates in 2012. He went back to college last off season and graduated with a degree in political science and a minor in history.
“I’m not totally sure what I want to do eventually,” he said. “Right now, I’m focusing on baseball and we’ll see where it takes me.”
Kuchno began his career at short-season State College in 2012, pitching four games. He didn’t allow a run in three of his four appearances but finished with a 0-1 record for the Spikes.
He spent all of 2013 at Low-A West Virginia where he compiled a 9-5 record and 4.01 ERA in 24 games (123.1 innings). He went 6-2 over the last two months and earned a promotion to Advanced-A Bradenton in 2014. After a slow start, he finished 8-9 with a 3.56 ERA for manager Tom Prince’s Marauders. The highlight of his season was inducing 31 groundball double plays, topped by only one other pitcher in the minors or majors.
A starter throughout his first three stops in the minors, Kuchno finds himself as a member of the Curve bullpen.
“It’s a different mindset,” Kuchno said about relieving. “As a starter, you can feel your way into a game. As a reliever, sometimes you are coming into a big situation and there’s no time to settle in. Plus you have to use all of your pitches immediately and can’t save anything.
“But, it’s still pitching and you’ve got to execute”
Kuchno doesn’t care if he starts or relieves.
“I take one day at a time and don’t look too far down the road,” he said. “I do the best I can every day to improve. I don’t lose sight of the end goal which is to play in Pittsburgh.
“I’ll do whatever it takes, whatever they ask of me.”