Born: January 14, 1984 (Wright Patterson Air Force Base, OH)
Graduated: Wichita Heights H.S., 2002 / Wichita State University, 2019
From playing to coaching, the career of Mike Pelfrey has he comes full circle. Pelfrey began playing baseball at the age of nine and hasn’t looked back since.
While he was born in Ohio, Pelfrey grew up in Wichita and it was always his dream to get to play at his hometown school, Wichita State. As a youth during the spring baseball season, he rushed to the ballpark after school to watch one of the nation’s powerhouse programs in college baseball. When it was his time to sign to play college baseball, Pelfrey’s choice was a no-brainer. “I committed on the first day of signing period,” he said. He kept that commitment despite being drafted out of high school.
During his time at Wichita State, he was a two-time All-American selection in 2004 and 2005, Freshman All-American Selection in 2003, two-time Missouri Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year, Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year in 2003, three-time first-team All-Conference selection, and a three-year letter winner. He was also an Academic All-Conference selection in 2004.
Pelfrey’s statistics back up the accolades and rank him one of the best hurlers in the storied history of Shocker baseball. He led the team in wins and strikeouts as a freshman, sophomore, and junior. He finished in a collegiate career with a 2.18 ERA, which set a school record. His 366 strikeouts ranked him second. He also compiled a 33-7 career record in the black and yellow.
While he was getting to live out his dream playing at Wichita State, playing in the pros ranks took notice. He was drafted in the first round by the New York Mets in 2005 following his outstanding junior year at Wichita State.
Looking back on his career, his favorite memory was his debut with the Mets. “It was something that I had worked for my whole life,” Pelfrey said. “It went quicker than I thought and when I looked at the batter it was like I was looking into a magnifying glass.” For Pelfrey, just getting his foot in the door was a dream come true.
While he was away from family for his games he was never really alone. Pelfrey’s mom left him a voicemail after every game making sure he knew her two cents on how he played. While her commentary wasn’t always wanted after games, Pelfrey now realizes that his mom was one of his biggest motivators and that she always wanted the best from him.
Pelfrey played twelve seasons in the big leagues with the Mets, Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers, and Chicago White Sox. He posted 68-103 career record, with a 4.68 ERA, and 838 strikeouts in 275 games.
After 12 seasons in the pros Pelfrey realized that he was ready to move on to the next stage of life. “I have a lot of pride in being a competitor,” Pelfrey said. “I needed a certain level of success to be happy and when I didn’t get that it was hard on me mentally.” Even on the bad days, Pelfrey always looked forward to coming home. “I had a son in 2009, he didn’t care how I played,” Pelfrey said. “It allowed me to leave baseball on the field.”
After his playing career ended, he knew that the next step was coaching. His dream was to go back and coach at Wichita State. One week after retiring from professional baseball, Pelfrey enrolled at Wichita State to finish his degree and volunteered as an assistant coach at Newman University. He got the call to become the pitching coach at Wichita State in January 2019.
“I am very humbled, blessed and honored to have played for 12 years,” Pelfrey said. “My family, and in particular my wife, allowed me to focus and not worry about what was happening in Wichita.”
Pelfrey was inducted into the Shocker Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012, the Wichita Sports Hall of Fame in 2018, and the Kansas Baseball Hall of Fame 2019. He adds another hall of fame to the list today as Mike Pelfrey is honored by the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.
By: Molly Hackett