In Play with Tom Markowski

Michigan signee Karl Kauffmann of Brother Rice is state's best player

Baseball   | Tom Markowski

Michigan signee Karl Kauffmann of Brother Rice is state's best player

Birmingham – Brian Kalczynski had serious doubts. His boss, Birmingham Brother Rice coach Bob Riker, wanted no part of it.

When Ray Kauffmann contacted Kalczynski, a Brother Rice graduate and assistant baseball coach, concerning Kauffmann’s son, Karl, about a summer baseball camp for students grades 4th-6 – Kalczynski shook his head in disbelief. After all, Karl Kauffmann was in the second grade.

“I told him it wouldn’t work out,” Kalczynski said. “They’ll start crying. They always do.”

Ray Kauffmann insisted. Kalczynski acquiesced.

So Kalczynski had his brother, Joe, to set up different levels for the campers to participate in batting drills. At the end Brian asked his brother who won. It was Karl Kauffmann.

“He was two or four years younger than all of the other kids and he won!” Kalczynski said.

Fast-forward nearly 11 years and Kauffmann continues to turn coaches’ heads. Kauffmann, 18, is a senior at Brother Rice and is the state’s best player according to State Champs and other media outlets.

He is a Rawlings-Perfect Game Preseason All-America and he’s one of six finalists for the Detroit Athletic Club High School Male Athlete of the Year Award. The winner will be announced Monday at the DAC and State Champs will televise the event on FoxSports on May 14 at 12:30 p.m.

Kauffmann is a 6-1, 205-pound right-hander whose fastball has been consistently timed in the low 90s. He signed with Michigan and there is a strong possibility that he will be selected in Major League Baseball June Amateur Draft, quite possibly in the first five rounds.

State Champs’ No. 1 player last season, outfielder Nick Plummer, also of Brother Rice, was selected in the first round by the St. Louis Cardinals.

Kauffmann, who also plays outfield, said the decision to sign with U-M was easy. He had looked at schools from the south, including a few from the Southeastern Conference, but decided to sign with a school close to home. It didn’t hurt that his father graduated from U-M.

“I’ve been lucky,” Kauffmann said. “I had an opportunity to go to a great school. They had everything I looked for – academics, facilities.”

Kauffmann said he can’t allow himself to think too much about the draft. If it happens, great. If it doesn’t he’ll play for U-M.

“Nick had it figured out,” he said. “I wanted to sign (a major league contract). I’m taking a backseat approach. You can’t predict want the pros will do.”

Kauffmann throws four pitches, a two- and four-seam fastball, a curveball and a change-up.

As for his senior season his goals are team-oriented. Last season Brother Rice was upset in a Division 1 regional semifinal by Utica Eisenhower and the Warriors, fair or not, have been labelled a group of superstars that don’t play well as a team. Kauffmann has heard that kind of talk and it doesn’t sit well with him.

“You look back at the last three years and numbers-wise we have been successful,” he said. “But I don’t look at it that way. I could go 0-10 but if we win the state that would be it. Losing in the state tournament leaves a sour taste in your mouth.”