Baseball: Oak Forest’s Funkhouser 2012 Player of the Year
By Pat Disabato firstname.lastname@example.org June 22, 2012 10:46PM
The 2012 SouthtownStar Baseball Player of the Year is Oak Forest pitcher Kyle Funkhouser. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 25, 2012 6:05AM
When Kyle Funkhouser was promoted to Oak Forest’s sophomore team as a freshman, it largely was in part to his prowess as a shortstop, not a pitcher.
“I didn’t even pitch much,” Funkhouser recalled. “I was like the No. 3 pitcher in the rotation.”
By the time he began his sophomore season on the varsity, his pitch velocity had significantly increased. A fastball that barely reached 80 mph now was approaching 90 mph.
“I don’t know what my mom fed me,” Funkhouser said with a slight laugh. “I do remember that all I’d drink back then was chocolate milk, at least three times a day. Maybe it was all that calcium.”
Maybe one day if his dream of playing Major League Baseball is realized, Funkhouser can pose for one of those “Got Milk?” ads, milk mustache and all.
For now, he will have to settle for being the 2012 Beggars Pizza/SouthtownStar Baseball Player of the Year.
“This is a really good honor,” said Funkhouser, who also was named the Gatorade Illinois Player of the Year. “There are so many great players in this area. All the hard work and dedication has paid off.”
Funkhouser’s final numbers were off the charts. The right-hander finished 11-2 with a 0.89 ERA. In 782/3 innings, he allowed just 32 hits, walked 25 and struck out 123.
It’s the second straight season he posted an ERA below 1.00. He was 12-0 with an 0.83 ERA in 2011.
“He was absolutely dominating,” Oak Forest coach Thaddeus Gatton said. “Hitters knew his fastball was coming and he was still overpowering. He developed more into a pitcher this year.”
Funkhouser will be remembered as one of the more dominant pitchers the Southland ever has produced, along with Oak Forest alums Tony Bartolomucci and Rick Gorecki.
Unlike the majority of today’s players, Funkhouser fine-tuned his craft without the assistance of a personal instructor.
“I guess I just got good instruction when I was young,” said Funkhouser, who played with the Oak Forest Storm and Oak Forest Blue Demons up until he was 16, before moving on to the Illinois Sparks. “It was just a natural thing with me.”
Funkhouser was a three-sport athlete for two years at Oak Forest, playing football, basketball and baseball.
When his junior year arrived, he decided to give up football and his duties as quarterback.
The thought of the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Funkhouser dropping back and throwing bombs to 2011 SouthtownStar Football Player of the Year Tevin Coleman would have produced many sleepless nights for opponents.
“I never got to play with Tevin, but that would have been fun,” Funkhouser said. “He played on the sophomore team as a freshman and the varsity as a sophomore. I would have just told him to ‘run as far and as fast as you can and I’ll throw it.’ ”
Funkhouser considered giving up basketball his senior season, but eventually had a change of heart.
“My junior year was a bad season,” said Funkhouser, who averaged 10 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds last season. “I didn’t want to end my basketball career like that and sit out my senior year. I couldn’t let my teammates down. And basketball gets you in good condition for baseball.”
Now it’s on to the University of Louisville, where he will team up with St. Rita grads Joey Filomeno and Zach Soria.
Funkhouser has enrolled in a few summer courses and is leaving for Kentucky on July 3.
He’ll see some familiar faces when he arrives. His father, Dennis, and brothers Matt and Joe, recently moved to Louisville.
“My dad always worked so much, so I didn’t get to see him often growing up,” said Funkhouser, whose mom and dad are divorced. “If I’m a little homesick, my family will be there.
“I’m excited to get down there. I’m going to get a couple of (credit) hours under my belt. I’ll keep working out and getting ready for fall ball. It’s going to be tough to get in the starting rotation, but getting down there this summer will help me. I’ll try to do whatever I can to get in there. I think I have a decent shot at playing some.”