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A former MLB star grooms a future one in Scottsdale

A former MLB star grooms a future one in Scottsdale
Scottsdale Christian Academy’s Ronan Kopp has been coached by a former MLB star Tim Salmon and is committed to play baseball at Arizona State University. (Courtesy: @Mel_K53/Twitter)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (BVM) – When Tim Salmon talks baseball, people listen.

Nicknamed “King Fish,” Salmon spent his entire 14-year playing career with the California (later Los Angeles) Angels as an outfielder and designated hitter. Salmon was the American League’s Rookie of the Year in 1993 and was a key cog of the Angels’ 2002 team that won the World Series, hitting two home runs in a Game 2 win over the San Francisco Giants. He finished seventh in MVP voting in 1995, the same year he won a Silver Slugger Award, and is the Angels’ all-time leader in home runs (299) and walks (965).

These are just a few reasons why when Salmon says he coaches a future Major Leaguer, you should take heed.

Salmon is now the head baseball coach at Scottsdale Christian Academy and has been since 2015. In his first season at the helm, Salmon led the Eagles to an improbable run to the state semifinals. Nowadays, such milestones aren’t as uncommon, and that has a lot to do with a larger-than-life left-handed pitcher.

More than 30 scouts had their radar guns pointed at Ronan Kopp during SCA’s 2020 season opener in February, someone Salmon said reminds him of a current MLB star. Salmon said he remembers hearing stories of 2014 World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner when the Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher was in high school, and says Kopp is of the same cut.

Standing at 6-foot-6 and weighing about 220 pounds, Kopp is just as dominant physically as he is with his ability.

“He garners the attention when we walk on the field because he’s a kid in high school who looks like a Major Leaguer,” Salmon said.

The former Angels’ star said Kopp isn’t a flash in the pan or overnight success, but his junior campaign in 2019 ensured Major League scouts would take notice. In a season where the Eagles finished 25-1-1 and won the Class 2A state championship, Kopp went 8-0 on the mound with a 0.41 ERA and 118 strikeouts in 51 innings pitched.

He can hit, too.

Batting .522 with 39 RBIs, 11 doubles and six home runs, Kopp was named the Arizona Baseball Coaches Association Class 2A Player of the Year and the Gatorade Arizona Baseball Player of the Year. But on the mound is where Kopp’s true talent lies. Consistently pitching 90-92 mph fastballs that can top out at 96 mph, Salmon said, Kopp is a prospect that already has MLB-level talent.

“That’s the kind of stuff that the pro scouts just drool over,” Salmon said. “They see a 6-foot-6 lefty and can see a high ceiling for him; that’s what has gotten him all of the attention. He’s got it both, the physical and ability side, and I think he has the makeup as well.”

Kopp had hoped to hear his name called during the 2020 MLB Draft, but the cancelation of the spring sports season due to COVID-19 has impacted the senior’s ability to get more eyes on his game. It also didn’t help that the draft was cut down from 40 rounds to just five.

Ronan Kopp will look to further his Major League potential in the Pac-12 with the Arizona State Sun Devils next spring. (Courtesy: @Mel_K53/Twitter)

Salmon, frankly, said missing out on his senior year hurt Kopp’s chances. From what Salmon was told by MLB scouts, he said, they really wanted to see Kopp pitch this spring to dispel any concerns of control with his fastball. If Kopp would’ve been able to play a full season, Salmon said he believes there was a good chance that the Eagles’ senior would’ve been drafted.

Whether or not Kopp hears his name called a year or two from now, playing baseball for Arizona State University next spring is something he can count on. Kopp signed to the Sun Devils in November and will hone in on his skills in the Pac-12.

With the loss of his senior season, Salmon said he believes going to ASU instead of MLB right away is the best option for him to make up for lost time and the game repetitions he missed out on.

Salmon said he is confident that Kopp has what it takes to become a Major Leaguer, and with a resume like his that dates back nearly 20 years, who could disagree?

“He’s the kid that stands out head and shoulders above the rest,” Salmon said. “He looks like a kid that can play in the big leagues and he looks like Major League talent. I don’t get players like that a lot and to have one that stands out as much as he does is pretty impressive.”