Fourteen players in the history of the Milwaukee Panthers baseball program have been selected in the Major League Ball Draft, and in only a few weeks the Panthers could be adding another person to that list.
Senior first baseman and outfielder Sam Koenig has been on a tear this season, posting eye-opening numbers. In 52 games, he has hit an impressive .361 with 14 home runs, 52 runs batted in and an on-base percentage of .450.
His outstanding season has put him in the conversation of being selected in June’s MLB Draft.
However, there was a time Koenig wasn’t on professional scouts’ radar. In his first three seasons he was a solid contributor for the Panthers, but injuries hurt his development as a player.
In the summer leading up to his freshman year at Milwaukee in 2010, Koenig suffered a herniated disk. He then continued to battle injuries once on campus, having to undergo surgery on his ankle, wrist and hip.
However, the most disappointing injury came last season when he went down with a season-ending hand injury only 10 games into the season. It was especially hard for Koenig, who was off to an incredibly hot start batting .424.
This setback didn’t stop Koenig however, as he used it as motivation to build off of last season’s start.
“Whenever the sport is taken away from you, you kind of get a different perspective and appreciate it when you are out there,” Koenig said. “It just gives me motivation anytime I have a setback to come back stronger.”
Koenig has done just that, as he has gone from being a solid contributor to being the star on a talented Panther squad in his final season wearing the black and gold.
He credits his success to having a better mental approach to the game while also maturing more as a player.
His success also hasn’t gone unnoticed around the country. Not only is he one of the leading candidates for the Horizon League Player of the Year Award, but he has also been named conference player of the week twice.
Koenig was even a member of the 60-player midseason Golden Spikes Award watch list, which is an award that is presented annually to the nations top amateur player.
Despite all this attention he has received, Koenig stated that he isn’t trying to think too much about it.
“It’s an honor getting recognized like that,” Koenig said. “But, when it comes down to it you just have to play your game and take each game for what it is and nothing is really for granted.”
With Koenig’s final season winding down, he has a clear plan on what his goals are for life after UWM.
“After UWM I am going to try to take baseball as far as I can,” Koenig said. “We will see about the draft. If not I will maybe try and sign with an independent team. When it is all set and done I will be graduating as a teacher in the next couple of years.”
Koenig seems to have a strong chance at being selected in this year’s draft. He probably will have to wait a bit to hear his name called, but the skills and intangibles he brings to the table, hopefully won’t go unnoticed.
Standing at 6 feet, 5 inches tall and weighing 220 pounds, Koenig has a superior work ethic and passion for the game of baseball. He is putting everything together this season, and deserves the opportunity to play baseball at the next level.
Time will tell what the future has in store for Koenig, but right now he is solely focused on helping his team reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010.
“It will definitely be rewarding to get drafted for all the hard work I’ve put in,” Koenig said. “If we just can finish strong this season that would be an even better accomplishment because this team is definitely capable of big things.”