Commanding the strike zone in the latest episode of C’s Chat is 2019 Vancouver Canadians pitcher Adam Kloffenstein.
Pitching for most of 2019 as an 18 year-old, the 6-foot-5 right-hander from Magnolia, Texas put together an outstanding season with the C’s this past season. Kloffenstein split eight decisions and recorded an earned run average of 2.24. He struck out 64 batters in 64-1/3 innings and limited Northwest League hitters to a .205 batting average.
Those numbers helped the Blue Jays third round pick of 2018 earn a berth on the Northwest League Post-Season All-Star Team and Baseball America rated him as the number five prospect in the NWL.
One of the highlights of the 2019 season for Kloffenstein came in early August when he was named a Northwest League All-Star along with his fellow teammates Philip Clarke, Yorman Rodriguez and Trevor Schwecke.
“Leading up to it, I hadn’t even looked in when it was or anything like that. I’m not used to having an all-star break or anything like that so I didn’t even really think about it.
A couple of weeks before it, I started looking at it. I was talking to my parents. I was like, ‘Hey, so far I feel like I’m on track, you know, if you guys want to come out for the All-Star Game or whatever.’
I started to ask (pitching coach) Demetre (Kokoris) about it. He said, ‘I haven’t heard anything.’ (The All-Star Game) was like the first week in August. Then it was getting towards the end of July and I was like, ‘Hey!’ (laughs).
I’m not going to say I didn’t care. I didn’t really have an opinion either way. I just wanted to know because I would have three days off so I might want to go do something or if my parents wanted to come to the game or if I wanted to go see my parents or something like that.
I kept kind of asking Demetre about it and he was like, ‘Hey, you know, I don’t know. I don’t know,’ which I think he did but good for him for not telling me I guess. We were in Boise ironically and I was like, ‘Hey, do you know anything?’ Because I just had a really good start in Spokane and I was like, ‘I gotta be, right? ‘. And he was like, ‘Dude, I would think so but I really don’t know anything.’ So I go, ‘Okay.’
I hadn’t looked at any of the numbers or anything around the league. It was a goal this year but I didn’t come here to be an All-Star and I didn’t even know how they picked it but it wasn’t really bothering me that much.
Back to Boise
Having sliced his earned run average from 6.00 on Opening Day to 2.27 heading into the All-Star break, Kloffenstein eventually got the good word that he was indeed going to Boise for the Northwest League/Pioneer League All-Star Game.
“When they told me I was excited and I thought ‘That’s cool, kind of a bucket list thing.’ It’d be cool to be an All-Star everywhere I go so 1-for-1! (laughs).
But yeah, it was cool and then getting to meet all those guys around the league. We have a lot of great guys around the league. A lot of the staff and stuff was great. The city was fun and they treated us. It was a good time.”
Even though there were a number of events scheduled prior to the All-Star Game, Kloffenstein said it was a pretty relaxed atmosphere.
“It was cool. They had a bunch of little events and stuff set up throughout the day. They made it cool for us. It was optional, you know, if you just wanted to hang out for a little bit. If you didn’t want to go to something, you weren’t expected to show up but it was a good time. There was different stuff. It was fun to go to.
It was all the guys just hanging out away from the field and away from all the stretching and lifting and all that kind of stuff. So yeah, it was a good time getting to see the best guys in the leagues, the guys you’ve been playing against and the guys that have been causing you trouble all year. That was fun, just kind of hang out with them outside of the field.
Talk about life, talk about different stuff and comparing our drafts and organizations and stuff like that. It was a pretty cool atmosphere and the hospitality was good.”
There were a number of Northwest League All-Stars Kloffenstein got in touch with.
“I hung out with Dan Dallas from Tri-City. I hung out with him some. We played them a lot and I pitched against them a lot. We already knew who each other was. We’d been out to dinner and stuff here together. We hung out some.
Aaron Schunk from Boise, he’s a high prospect guy for them and he’s a great guy. George Kirby, the first rounder from Seattle. I met a couple of guys that we kind of hung around and it was a good time.
And then just my guys from my team. All those guys, they’re good guys.”
Even though the Pioneer League defeated the Northwest League 11-7, Kloffenstein did his part for the NWL by pitching a shutout fourth inning. He retired Great Falls’ Harvin Mendoza on a ground out to second before striking out Idaho Falls’ Michael Emodi and Missouli’s Tristen Carranza swinging.
“It was fun. I wouldn’t say I was nervous. I know in an All-Star Game atmosphere, the pitching always takes over because the hitters are seeing new pitchers every inning. They’re the best pitchers in the league.
These are also the best hitters in the league. I lined up against a guy that was in the home run derby (Michael Emodi) and I watched him hit some balls pretty far. I know that from being a hitter myself not too long ago that BP is a whole hell of a lot different than the game (laughs).
I didn’t change anything. I did what had gotten me to the All-Star Game. I threw inside, I threw my off-speed pitches ahead in the count. I was successful and I was pleased with how it turned out. I had a good time.”
Entering the All-Star Game as a reliever instead of a starter required a change of routine for Kloffenstein.
“It was different. I pitched the fourth inning and so I was almost like a reliever. I didn’t really stretch much at all. It was the All-Star break too. I wasn’t trying to do all that other extra stuff so I was like, I just do whatever I need to do to get there and the adrenalin will take over. I started stretching like in the second inning. I just got my body ready to go to throw in the bullpen.
We still slept in and stuff so like we normally would but yeah, it wasn’t a ton different. The atmosphere was obviously different because we weren’t with our teammates and we weren’t with our coaching staff or anything. We were on our own kind of just doing what we normally wanted to do but it was a good time and a good, little flush.
The All-Star break allowed Kloffenstein to take a break from the daily grind of the Northwest League season.
“A lot of guys were saying that we would rather have gotten away from the game for a couple of days and stuff. The manager for Boise was great. Nobody made us do anything. It was like, ‘Do this stuff on your own. Whatever you need to do to get ready for the game. The game should be fun. The game should be a good time to just hang out with a lot of good baseball talent. It was (not a) strict atmosphere. It wasn’t like, you know, ‘Man, I wish I could have gotten a rest from the game for a couple of days.’ We were resting from the game so yeah, it was fun.”
Post All-Star Break
Kloffenstein put together a nice finishing kick to 2019 as he pitched 18-1/3 scoreless innings over a stretch of four starts in August.
“I think for me it’s just finding something every outing that I can get better at and working on it during the week and doing it better the next week. There’s different things throughout the year. The first inning as a Canadian I give up a two-run homer to start. I think understanding these hitters more and understanding pitching more as the year goes on, I’ve always just gotten by for the most part on my talent and being maybe guys missing pitches they should have hit, stuff like that. Here, that doesn’t happen as much.
It still happens. It’s hard to hit a baseball but I think there’s another thing, understanding that make guys beat you, you know, don’t give guys too much credit. Obviously you know which hitters are better than others and you know when you’re coming up 3-4-5 hitters, you need to be a little bit more careful.
As far as what’s from the beginning to now, I think it’s just really understanding myself as a pitcher more and understanding how I get guys out. I’m not going to get guys out like anybody else. Everybody does it different. I stick to what I know. I threw against Tri-City for the fourth time the other day and I was successful. I didn’t do anything different than I did the first time I faced them. From now on, teams are going to know what you throw, teams are going to know how hard you throw, teams are going to know. I’m shocked to see how much the hitters have on these pitchers. I’m knowing that they have the same thing. Not trying to hide yourself, not trying to save anything, not trying to trick anybody. It’s just throwing your game and whatever happens, happens.”
The longest outing and best outing of Kloffenstein’s season came when he blanked the Tri-City Dust Devils for seven innings in Pasco, Washington August 21. He broke down how he used his five-pitch mix during that outing.
“My curveball was really good. I didn’t throw my slider once which is not normal. (Alek Manoah overhears and asks, ‘So would you say it’s a four-pitch mix?’). (Laughs) No, I normally throw my slider a lot and don’t throw my curveball that much.
Throughout the year, my sinker—that I basically developed in spring training—has been my go-to (pitch). I’ve thrown it probably like three-fourths of the time and I don’t throw my four-seamer that much but I still can throw it enough to locate it whenever I need to. But I’d say my sinker from beginning to end has been my go-to.”
Meeting Mount Manoah
Even though 2019 was a tough season for the Canadians, the fans at Nat Bailey Stadium got to watch two of the Blue Jays best pitching prospects in Kloffenstein and Manoah, the 11th player taken in the 2019 MLB draft. Kloffenstein relayed his first impressions of the big man from West Virginia.
“I didn’t know what to expect coming in. I had heard different things. Obviously he’s a great talent and I wasn’t expecting anything less out of that. It was more like the type of person he was. Nobody really knew him. I just decided to make my own opinion.
I think I might have been the first guy to meet him. I heard he was here. He got here during the game and so I went into the locker room and met him. The first reaction is he’s an actual house. He’s huge but he’s an outgoing guy, confident guy, sense of humour. Gets his work done but can do it without being too serious about it which is a lot of the way I am.
I think that we have a lot of similarities also. He’s a different guy but I think there’s definitely some similarities on and off the field when it comes to repertoire, when it comes to favourite foods. It’s some similar stuff. I think that he’ll be a great addition in a couple of years to that staff and I hope that I can be right there with him and hopefully we can be franchise guys in the big leagues in a couple of years.”
Meeting with the Media
When Kloffenstein was introduced to the Vancouver Media during Media Day, his poise and calm demeanour were evident in the media scrum. I told him he conducted himself like a big league veteran.
“I guess I’m glad you see it that way. For me, talking to media, talking to fans, little girls, little boys, stuff like that. It’s all stuff that comes with this and it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. It’s what I’ve always dreamed of and I’ve always seen myself doing it.
Kind of being interviewed and stuff like that, it’s different at first but it’s just something that comes with the territory and something you feel blessed to be asked to do. It’s also to me, it’s probably the only thing that you could talk to me about that I know all the answers to because it’s my own career. I can sit and talk to you about it all day long because it doesn’t get old to me.
It’s my career. It’s what I love to do and I’m living my dream so it’s a great time and we can sit here and I can answer any question you have about it because it’s my own personal life. It makes it easy I guess.”
King Kloff – Origin Story
Kloffenstein’s Twitter handle is @KingKloff and his mother Renee and his father John have gotten in on the act with their Twitter nicknames of kloffsmom3424 and kloffsdad24 respectively. Adam talked about how he acquired the King Kloff nickname.
“The King Kloff came about was when I was actually a sophomore in high school. I played basketball throughout my whole life, through high school too. I was in the locker room one day and it’s kind of blurry so I don’t remember exactly what happened. I’ve always been ‘Kloff’ pretty much since high school started I’ve been Kloff. If you see my name, it’s pretty easy to just start calling me Kloff.
Somebody just kind of out of the blue called me ‘King Kloff’. Maybe it was a younger guy said something about me being a king or something like that which was totally outrageous especially when I was like 14 or 15. But then that same day, this is going to sound weird but literally that same day in my basketball locker at the top of my locker was a King of Spades playing card sitting in my locker and it was the only card.
I asked a bunch of guys about it, ‘Hey, did you put this card in my locker?’ It was kind of freaky because it was the same day. And I was like, ‘That’s kind of cool!’ So I put the card in my wallet and a fun fact, it’s still in my wallet today. It’s a little beat up but yeah, that’s kind of where it started and then people started calling me that kind of as a joke. Now (C’s broadcaster) Rob Fai loves it so now it’s apparently like a (laughs), it’s apparently a seat filler to call me King Kloff.
Even with the King Kloff nickname, Kloffenstein hopes people do not get the wrong impression of him.
I don’t hold a lot of weight under it. I used to put my name on it on Instagram, I changed that. I don’t want people to get the wrong idea and I don’t want people to think that I think of myself that way. I think it’s important to have confidence in this game but at the same time you know, to be a humble human being in general.
I hope that people don’t get the wrong idea about it and the day that I feel that people are getting the wrong idea about it, I’ll change it. I hope people get to know me first before they judge that kind of stuff. It’s just a fun, fun thing and it’s a cool thing especially since King Kloff starts with a K. It’s fun to go off of but I would never introduce myself (laughs) as that or go by that.
So yeah, that’s where that happened and then you know, Kloff and Kloff’s Dad and Kloff’s Mom. Everybody always knew and saw my Dad because he’s really big but no one ever knew his name really so people would just call him ‘Kloff’s Dad’ and then everyone calls my Mom ‘Kloff’s Mom’ because she does not like to be called Mrs. Renee so people would just say call her Kloff’s Mom. That’s kind of how that has came about and they love it, every second of it. The social media stuff – it’s there, it’s fun for the family for sure.”
The Seattle Mariners had their King in ‘King Felix’ Hernandez. The Toronto Blue Jays hope to have their own King in King Kloff and that he will reign supreme on major league mounds in the near future.
Turning 20 years on August 25, Kloffenstein will make the jump to full-season ball in 2020 in either Lansing and/or Dunedin.
Thanks a million to Adam Kloffenstein for this edition of C’s Chat and to C’s Media Relations Assistant Jordy Cunningham for setting it up.