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NIU’s Klonowski looking to take next step with Angels

Unlike a lot of Major League Baseball Amateur Draft prospects who sit and wait for their name to be called, Saturday was an unusual experience for Alex Klonowski.

The former Northern Illinois pitcher was part of a wedding in his hometown of Kearney, Missouri on the weekend of his big moment. He was also the last of his family members to know that he was selected by the Los Angeles Angels in the draft's 29th round.

“I didn’t have my phone on me, and a lot of people were telling me congratulations, but I was not sure what for," Klonowski said. 

What they were congratulating for was a phone call that he would eventually receive five minutes before the wedding ceremony started. 

The call was from a scout with the Angels organization, informing him that he had been selected by the team. His initial reaction was all-around excitement, the dream he had since he was a young child growing up in the small town of Kearney, Missouri had finally come to fruition. 

The selection comes off a stellar senior season for Klonowski, who finished the year with a 4-6 record and an ERA of 2.38. He did not allow a home run in 94 2/3 innings pitched. Klonowski also played the field, primarily first base, for the Huskies on days he didn't pitch, and hit .247 with two homers and 21 RBIs. He will be able to focus on pitching with the Angels.

“I was excited, obviously. I have dreamed of playing professional baseball ever since I was a little kid.” Klonowski said. “It’s something I’ve always wanted, and it’s nice to know that all the hard work paid off.” 

The dream has been realized, but now Klonowski gets very little time to celebrate with those around him. Now, it is time for him to get to work and learn the ropes of becoming a Major League pitcher. A representative from the Angels organization will be bringing him a contract to sign Thursday, and it will all be official – Alex Klonowski will be a member of the Los Angeles Angels organization. 

After signing the contract he will be shipped to Tempe, Arizona to begin working with the Angels' rookie-level Arizona League team.

Rookie is the lowest level of minor league baseball, and for the most part involves draft picks and young Latin American prospects. Depending on what he does in the AZL, Klonowski could be in line for a promotion to the Orem Owlz of the Pioneer League, a rookie league more advanced than the AZL.

For now, Klonowski said he knows little about the organization, but that he looks forward to getting to know more about the Angels and feels he will pick things up quickly. 

“They were not on TV a lot when I was a kid in Kearney, so I know they have guys like (Mike) Trout, (Albert) Pujols and Josh Hamilton,” Klonowski said. “I don’t know a whole lot outside of that, but I look forward to learning, and I am ready to start pitching as soon as they need me, wherever I am at.” 

It has been a good year for Klonowski since his senior season at NIU began, and now the work is only beginning. 

Even with the MLB hopes that he has, Klonowski is still looking into beginning graduate school in the fall. He earned his bachelor's in accounting from NIU, and plans on finding a school for his master's in that field. 

“I will be looking to do classes in the fall," Klonowski said, "but for now baseball is going to come first for me.”

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