By: Rene Medina
Michael Jordan. Wayne Gretsky. Joe Montana. Babe Ruth. When you’re talking about the Greatest Of All Time, these players are typically regarded as the best in their specific sport. Pretty simple, right? Wrong. LeBron James, Gordie Howie, Tom Brady (vomit), and Hank Aaron supporters also swear they’re the best. See, that’s the thing about G.O.A.T. debates. They’re debates for a reason. There is never any right answer. Except here. Let’s talk about the best ever pitchers in K.O.A.L.A. Kickball.
A few ground rules. My most important criteria when judging best overall pitchers is a simple question, “What pitcher do hitters least want to pitch against?” But consistency also matters; we wanna crown the player who threw the best stuff while at the same time brought their A game each and every single game. Defense matters, too. Pitchers don’t just pitch – they catch, too. And they throw, particularly when a lady is bunting. However, offense does not. Sorry. One final thing: pitching 2-3 seasons is not enough. I need to have seen you pitch consistently, over a longer period of time, to earn a mention here.
That’s it! Rankings are done in reverse order, with my Greatest Pitcher of All Time found at the bottom of this post. Lemme know if I got it right, and if not, how you’d rank the pitchers! Here are my best 10 to ever do it at K.O.A.L.A. Kickball.
Honorable Mention: Erik Morales – He pitched for several seasons with Opalocka Goonz, and was consistent. His best pitch was a curve ball that he threw with good speed and with solid effectiveness. While he pitched around 2 years ago, Erick earned a spot as one of our best ever.
- Alex Isaac – Isaac has pitched at Tropical Park on and off for several seasons. Many Tropical Park players don’t know his name, and they don’t realize he’s a lethal pitcher until they’re behind in the count trying to hit one of the most awkward pitches in K.O.A.L.A. Kickball. His lanky, long arms are the key to one of weirdest pitcher releases in the league. Also, he has great defensive range for a pitcher and still boasts a lot of the speed that made him an elite track athlete, which helps him successfully neutralize a lot more bunts from girls than your average pitcher.
- Rene Medina – If you’re a pitcher, you always think you’re the greatest ever. No good pitcher goes to the mound thinking another pitcher can do their job better than them. I’m no exception. In my head, I’ll always believe that I’m the greatest ever. I’m putting myself ninth to avoid controversy, but if you ever ask me whether I think another pitcher is better than me, I’ll flat out tell you a simple answer, “No.”
- Pablo Prieto – The most prepared pitcher in the history of K.O.A.L.A. Kickball, hands down. Pablo is a student of the game. He always brought in his 3 different sets of balls and a clean, dry, white towel that he would hang off his shorts, and he would use it to always keep his grip. Pablo also was one of the first pitchers in K.O.A.L.A. Kickball to pitch the two different curve balls that a few pitchers now frequently use. I haven’t seen Pablo pitch in a while, but I eagerly await the day he comes back to the mound and decides to make a return to pitching.
- Luis Mendoza ( “Lulu”) – Did not do anything very special, except win. And win a lot. A few pitchers feel they, too, could have won as many rings has they pitched instead of Lulu. Here’s the thing, though. He did, and they didn’t. Credit to Lulu for never making it about himself as a pitcher; he knew the elite outfields he pitched behind and did not let the pressure of having every team in K.O.A.L.A. Kickball gunning for his elite teams affect him from doing the thing he did best: throw strikes.
- Lesmes Ruiz – A salute to one of the players who most passionately loves K.O.A.L.A. Kickball, and a thank you serving in our armed forces (the reason he hasn’t pitched the last few seasons). Lesmes terrorized kickers at Cutler Bay and Tropical Park with a kickball with tremendous spin on it. One of the highest compliments I can pay him is that other pitchers don’t debate that he belongs on this list, and his performance last year against some of UM’s All-Star football players remains sublime.
- Jeff Papalote – The biggest knock on Papalote used to be that his teams could not win the big game similar criticism that’s made of Dave’s teams with Rocket Power). Well, once Papalote joined PSN Slidaz, that criticism no longer applies. A former high school pitcher, Papalote understands the importance that a good pitcher makes to a good team. Papalote has consistently, and for many seasons now, pitched at a great level. He’s routinely a matchup that many kickers would prefer to avoid. He has mastered both spin pitches and throws them both with equal effectiveness, making him a top five pitcher.
- Dave Herrera – One of the most cerebral pitchers in K.O.A.L.A. Kickball, Dave got better at pitching each season he played. Dave consistently kept his teams in games through his pitching and leadership. One way to talk about MVP’s is to ask a simple question: where would the team be without their star player? Or, phrased a little differently, is you replaced the player with a league average player, how would the team fare? Personally, I don’t think the Rocket Power or Looney Toones teams he played with and captained would have had anywhere near the same level of success without Dave. That’s why he’s on this list. One knock: he hasn’t pitched at an elite level long enough to move higher up this list. A couple more seasons, and I would’ve had him ranked higher.
- Andrew Ramirez (“Drew” aka “Randy Johnson”) – I have never seen a pitcher have better single game performances than Drew. On clay, he’s an absolute nightmare against hitters. Drew has the fastest fast ball out of any pitcher in K.O.A.L.A. Kickball. But his curve balls are also the fastest curve balls of any pitcher in the league, and he uses them with deadly precision on the bounce. I also feel he’s the scariest pitcher to fall behind in the count on, as once Drew is ahead in the count, he’ll throw a great mix of borderline knee pitches that freeze the kicker for a second (before they realize that they’re better off kicking the pitch than relying on the umpire to call a ball). Drew gets knocked into third place for two reasons: 1) I’ve seen a couple of great kickers catch up to some of his fast balls for long home runs and 2) inconsistency (and keeping a cool head) is an issue he’s sometimes struggled with. All in all, however, when he’s on his game, he’s personally the pitcher I’m most afraid of kicking against.
- Jonathan Akins – As a pitcher, Akins possesses no shortcoming. Kinda like John Stockton with the Utah Jazz, he’s unappreciated simply because he’s been great it at it for so long. However, think about this: how many times has a Wolfpack team in Miami Lakes been a lower seed and made it to the Final Four in the playoffs? How many times has a team with Akins as pitcher suffered a blowout loss? And how many different players has Wolfpack had, while still always remaining in contention? In my opinion, there’s one constant among all those teams, and that’s Jonathan Akins. He has a great fast ball, great bounce pitch, and solid curve balls. On clay, he’s an even better pitcher. However, to me, what stands out about Akins is his bunt defense. I feel there is no better pitcher in K.O.A.L.A. Kickball defensively. He has great vert and long arms, which gives him tremendous range when it comes to getting balls anywhere near his vicinity. He’ll rarely throw a walk (in fact, I don’t remember the last time I saw him walk a kicker), which is something that I cannot necessarily say for some of the other pitchers on this list. Again, to me, he’s an elite pitcher, second only to…
- Mikey Dovale – Trivia time: in the 2018 Fall Season, when strikeout stats were kept across the Miami Lakes, Tropical Park, and Pembroke Pines leagues, what pitcher led each individual league in strikeouts? Answer: Mikey Dovale, for each and every SINGLE ONE of those leagues. Mikey’s greatest asset is his consistency: quite simply, he’s elite each and every single time he plays. Mikey is great at throwing a first pitch strike every time. From there, he’s great at knowing which pitch to use against every kicker, taking into account where he remembers the kicker historically kicking, what pitches the kicker has seen in the count so far, and what his count looks like. Just like Drew, falling behind against Mikey in the count works against the kicker, as Mikey has no problem throwing borderline strikes in an effort to put pressure on the kicker to kick a bad pitch. Just hard to argue against the stats. To me, Mikey remains the best all-time pitcher in K.O.A.L.A. Kickball.