GROVE CITY — Through his first two years at the high school varsity level, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City’s Josh Kingery has made a splash on the Minnesota baseball scene.
Earning honorable mention on the Tribune’s All-Area team each of the last two seasons, Kingery backed up a strong showing at the plate during his freshman year with an outstanding performance on the mound throughout his sophomore campaign and was voted the West Central Conference’s Pitcher of the Year.
Earlier this month, Kingery’s talents were recognized as he was ranked eighth among all juniors in the state by Prep Baseball Report, a national amateur scouting service.
The accolades are nice, but the Falcons junior says that kind of recognition isn’t his focus.
“It’s really cool to be in the top-10, but I really didn’t think about it,” Kingery said. “I try not to think about that stuff. I thought it was really cool when I saw it, but I try not to pay attention to that stuff.”
Here’s the story of what Kingery is focused on and how baseball became the sport that he loves.
Like everyone else, Kingery was disappointed to learn that his spring and summer of baseball were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But in his eyes, he had a decision to make.
“When it first happened, I thought to myself, I had two choices: either be sad and give up on the season or work hard and try to impress people next year,” Kingery said. “I chose the latter and it’s given me time to work with my brother on some stuff.”
His brother is David Kingery, an ACGC graduate who also earned honorable mention on the Tribune’s All-Area as a senior in 2018. With his older sibling by his side more, Josh Kingery has been able to lift more weights as well as develop areas in his game.
“They’re best friends,” said Mike Kingery, Josh and David’s father, ACGC baseball head coach and an outfielder who enjoyed a decade in the big leagues. “They both cheered for each other. David has been a big influence on Josh, probably more by example.
“David has just been a good example of being a good teammate and thinking about others.”
One of the biggest ways David has influenced Josh came when they were kids. David needed a partner to play catch and long toss. Of course, being the younger brother, it was harder for Josh to throw the ball further, but by playing long toss with his older brother, he was able to strengthen his arm.
It’s no wonder why he was able to pitch 53 2/3 innings as a sophomore for the Falcons and had his fastball clocked at 89 miles per hour in a showcase this past winter.
“When we were little, I was the outdoors kid, or as my dad would say, I was ‘Cowboys and Indians’ kid,” Josh Kingery said. “My brother was the one who really loved baseball. We’d always do a switch, so if he played with me, I would play with him. I really grew to love (baseball) when we were playing.”
Building on weaknesses
Josh Kingery is using this time to work on offspeed pitches that compliment his high-velocity fastball. The junior is developing a curveball, a knuckle curve that dives out of the zone sooner along with a changeup.
Kingery had a 6-1 record with 95 strikeouts, 21 walks, a 1.43 earned-run average and held opponents to a .120 batting average last season. Add in a 0.820 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched), batters may be hesitant to dig in when he’s on the mound in 2021 if he can get the other pitches down. But as impressive as he was on the bump, particularly late in the season, Kingery had his fair share of frustrations at the plate.
As a freshman in a lineup stacked with seniors, Josh Kingery batted .340 as a cleanup hitter. While he was able to produce an on-base percentage of .434 one year later, his batting dipped to .254.
“He probably put a little too much on his shoulders and tried to do too much as a hitter,” Mike Kingery said. “He’s very skilled and he's very humble and he’s a hard worker; I would say this whether or not he’s my son. There're many people who have dreams and not everyone of those people are willing to put in the time and the effort to be able to accomplish those, but he’s unique in the fact that he’ll do a lot of the redundant things that some aren’t willing to do.”
Mechanics weren’t Josh Kingery’s issues as the pitcher/infielder/outfielder has a beautiful left-handed swing. Instead, the junior says he’s focused on having better pitch recognition.
“Over the course of the offseason and coming into the spring, I’ve been really trying to improve on my hitting,” Josh Kingery said. “I struggled last spring, so I’ve been trying to fine tune what I can do and improve on my weaknesses.”
“Last spring, I struggled a lot with not recognizing the inside pitch. I struggled a lot with getting jammed and had little pop-ups to short or weak ground balls to the first and second-base area.”
The next level
The Falcons junior last played a competitive game in the fall with the Minnesota S.W.A.T. The team is a part of Mike Kingery’s Solid Foundation Baseball School. David Kingery works with his dad at SWAT.
After 32 games last fall, Josh Kingery has begun to receive interest as both a pitcher and a hitter at the next level. That interest includes the likes of the University of Minnesota and St. Cloud State University.
His father signed with the Kansas City Royals right out of Atwater High School in 1979. He had his path, but he encourages all of his players, including his son, to make the right decision for themselves.
“I tell my students all the time that you don’t want to go to a place unless it's the place for you,” Mike Kingery said. “I haven’t tried to over-coach my kids. I haven’t tried to get them to love the game because I did. I just tried to be there when I wanted help and when they wanted to work on it. I’m not trying to live my life through their life.”