Luke Kaiser was born a baseball lifer

He’s held together by red cotton thread in the form of stitches — 108 of them, to be exact.

Meet Luke Kaiser, a 16-year-old junior in high school. While there’s nothing uncommon about that, a significant part of Kaiser’s identity is baseball, and his approach to it makes him unique.

Baseball lifers are born. One either has it, or they don’t. In this context, ‘it’ is the deeply-seated attachment one has to something and its impact on the person in question. In other words, it’s ingrained in one’s DNA.

Kaiser, originally from San Francisco, is a right-handed pitcher and outfielder at Folsom (Calif.) High School. His abilities on the diamond may be exceeded only by his constant desire to improve.

At 6 feet and 190 pounds, Kaiser offers a mix of athleticism and strength. He’s up to 90 mph with a four-seam fastball and spins a slider he commands well. It all flies from a low three-quarter arm slot with what Kaiser calls “whippy action,” creating deception and accentuating horizontal movement.

Always working to get better, Kaiser keeps everything simple, even in words. When asked what he’s focused on improving, he said “commanding a third pitch,” referring to his changeup. “Right now it’s not polished enough where I know if I need an out I can use it, so I need to really focus on developing that.”

Kaiser, a class of 2025 prospect, verbally committed to nearby Sacramento State in August, but his story began long ago – at birth – and he didn’t arrive at this point alone, a fact he knows as much as anything. His family, including his parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles have been there at every step.

“Having them support me every single game, every big moment in my baseball career, and always having my back in times of adversity means everything, he said. “I credit them for keeping me focused and grinding because one day I want to give back after everything they did for me.

“Having my mom there to help me with not only school work when I was a kid, but helping me with nutrition and checking on me every day means a lot. She’s always been my biggest supporter since Day 1 and I couldn’t be more grateful.”

His dad, Joe, was his coach until high school, something Kaiser realizes was of great benefit, “he knew my game best out of anyone, and without his guidance those years I wouldn’t have made it to where I am today.”

Plus, when the going gets tough, the tough get “Arizona.”

Luke and Joe occasionally trek down to the desert weather for spring training and… “every game where I may be struggling or need something to give me some reassurance my dad will yell “Arizona!” which means to blow it by this batter. Because when you think Arizona you think heat.”

The father-son duo have spent hours upon hours working on Luke’s game and enjoying watching the majors from the stands or the couch in the family home.

“I watch players and sometimes I will see something they do I think might be good for me, but I know I can’t be them, they aren’t me. I have to find what works for me.”

Kaiser’s focus and diligence are particularly impressive. It’s not rare to find gym-rat types in college and pro baseball, but it’s atypical of teenagers to choose spellbound determination toward one thing, especially when that thing requires not just time, but energy… and a ton of it.

A dedication to the countless practices, games, cage work, throwing programs, and defensive drills, essentially year-round leaving considerably less time to socialize, and partake in other, more relaxing activities, such as video games, isn’t something found in most 16-year-old kids. This is where the ‘it’ factor strikes again.

When the spikes are laced and he steps on the mound once a week for his Folsom Bulldogs, Kaiser’s three-pitch mix is standard on paper. But there’s nothing at all ho-hum about an 87-90 mph four-seamer setting up a slider as filthy as Kaiser’s. Not at this age,  and not at this level, suggesting bigger and better are right around the corner.

Not everything is waffles and candied jalapenos on the baseball field, however. Folsom’s season has been a bit of a roller coaster in some ways, as has Kaiser’s to a minor extent. But, in a display of relentless desire and resolve on April 15, for example, the right-hander stepped on the mound facing one the league’s best teams, Whitney High School, a roster laced with D1 talents. His counterpart on the mound was Texas Longhorns commit Corden Pettey. Pettey was great that day.

But Kaiser was, too, going six strong innings, allowing just two runs on four hits and a walk. He struck out five, one each versus the No. 3 and 4 hitters for Whitney, including 2024 Oregon baseball commit Jax Gimenez.

Just another day at the ballpark.

Through the successes and adversity, Kaiser’s efforts to prepare are apparent. “Before games, I check every hitter’s spray chart to see what they are hitting and where,” he said.

Does Kaiser have down time? Sure, . What does he do to relax? It’s quite shocking.

“I watch a lot of college baseball and MLB,” he said. “More the college scene I’m more intrigued by because that’s my next step in baseball, and seeing what level these guys play at gives me perspective.”

What shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows Kaiser is his favorite college player is Florida two-way star and top 2024 MLB Draft prospect Jac Caglianone.

“I try to model my game after him.”

While there are never absolutes when it comes to one’s precise future, there’s no question Kaiser will carry baseball with him wherever he goes, for however long he chooses.

“Baseball is something I live and breathe every day. I love doing it, and it’s something I want to do as long as I live. No matter what happens I have fun and know the reason why I still love this game.”

Kaiser’s ache for baseball is extraordinary, but not exactly a mystery.

He was born with it.

Jason A. Churchill
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