Yale Athletics

This summer, Yale right-handed pitchers Michael Walsh ’23 and Grant Kipp ’22 took the first steps in establishing their professional careers. Walsh was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates as the fourth pick of the ninth round — 260th overall — of the 2022 MLB draft, while Kipp signed a free agent contract with the Chicago Cubs.

When his name was called, Walsh became the 43rd Yale player to be selected in the MLB draft. Both pitchers will be joining four other Elis who are currently playing in Minor League Baseball. Former Yale captain and infielder Simon Whiteman ’19, along with left-handed pitcher Rohan Handa ’23 are in the San Francisco Giants organization, playing for its High-A and Single-A affiliates, respectively. Another southpaw arm, Kumar Nambiar ’19, is in the Oakland Athletics’ High-A affiliate, while catcher Ryan Lavarnway ’09 is in Triple-A within the Miami Marlins organization. 

“[Walsh and Kipp] are both incredibly talented guys and really hard workers,” two-way player Jimmy Chatfield ’23 said. “It’s great when you see great things happen to good people. I am glad to call both of them my friends and to say that I got to call them my teammates for a while.”

Last season, Walsh was an All-Ivy honorable mention and the ace of the Bulldogs’ starting rotation. He started 11 games for the Elis, leading the team in strikeouts with 80, innings pitched with 65 and wins with four. Walsh also limited his opponents to a 0.237 batting average, the fifth lowest in the entire conference. In this year’s draft, Walsh was the first Ivy Leaguer to be taken and became one of only nine players in program history to be selected in the top 10 rounds.

“It’s an honor,” Walsh said about being drafted. “It’s definitely not something that I take lightly. It’s an honor to be able to represent the Ivy League and Yale. I intend to go out there, represent Yale as best as I can and do my best to make it to the big leagues. … Generally, when you think of an Ivy League institution, you don’t necessarily think athletics. The guys on the [Yale] squad now and in the past years are really trying to change that narrative.”

The 6-foot-2 native of La Grange, Illinois told the News that he had considered a professional baseball career prior to arriving at college, but credited his teammates and coaching staff at Yale for helping “make that dream into a real vision.” 

Walsh added that his support system was also key in helping him navigate the draft process. The pitcher’s journey to professional baseball began last September, when Yale played in a few pro days against other teams. From there, the right-hander received attention from Major League scouts. These individuals later remained in contact and reached out to Walsh after the end of the collegiate baseball season to invite him to pre-draft workouts, where they would assess his fit with their respective teams. 

Walsh also sought to improve his draft chances by playing in the Cape Cod Baseball League, a premier collegiate summer league and well-known stepping stone to Major League Baseball. The right-hander had a strong performance over the summer, posting a solid 2.38 earned run average with 23 strikeouts in 11.1 innings over eight games. 

All of Walsh’s hard work paid off on the second day of the 2022 Major League draft. A few picks before he was drafted, the Yale pitcher received a call from the Pittsburgh Pirates with an offer to join the organization. After consulting with his advisor and people close to him, Walsh accepted.

“It was this overwhelming wave of emotions,” Walsh said about the moment he was drafted. “It was … the realization that one of my lifelong dreams had come true. I thought back to hundreds of times where I was facing difficulty or adversity, not knowing necessarily where my career was going to go. You are just so grateful for everybody that stuck with you. Through all those ups and downs, I thought of my family, coaches, teammates, friends and everybody. They really deserve all the credit for me being able to get drafted.  When I got the phone call and was able to hug my parents, my best friends, my brother and my little sister. … It was awesome.”

Since the end of summer league, Walsh has been splitting his time between the rookie league Florida Complex League Pirates and the Bradenton Marauders in Single-A time.

“It’s been amazing,” the former Bulldog said about being in the Pirates organization. “Baseball has always been my life, but now I get the chance to actually fully commit to the game I love. It’s an exciting time to be in the Pittsburgh Pirates system. It’s a very hungry organization and everybody that I’ve met has been phenomenal as far as getting our draft class acclimated. There’s a general consensus that it’s time to break through and win a World Series [soon]. … It’s a great vibe in the organization. I love being a Pirate and I am so excited to see what my future holds, hopefully in Pittsburgh.”

Kipp also expressed similar enthusiasm when asked about his future with the Cubs organization. The former Yale starter was a leader both on the mound and in the clubhouse during his time with the Bulldogs. Last season, he was also an All-Ivy honorable mention. In conference games, he struck out 37 and walked only 10 in 43.2 innings. He was tied with Walsh for the Yale lead in wins and was second on the team in total strikeouts with 56.

The Dallas, Texas native told the News that he had always aspired to play baseball professionally, but that his dream solidified during his sophomore year at Yale after he had a strong 2020 season. Going into his senior year, Kipp had already been receiving attention from scouts. Like Walsh, he had also spent his summer playing in the Cape Cod League, where he struck out 10 and walked only one in 6.2 innings.

Former Yale baseball head coach John Stuper hinted to Kipp that there was early interest in him from the organization after speaking to Cubs Assistant General Manager and Director of Pitching Craig Breslow ’02. The Yale senior later reached an agreement with the organization, finalizing his free agent contract shortly after the 2022 MLB draft. 

“It was pretty surreal,” Kipp said about the moment he signed his free agent contract. “It means a lot to me to be a part of the Cubs — not only because of the Breslow connection, but also because my mom is from the Chicago area and grew up a die-hard Cubs fan. It honestly made it even better to hear [from the organization] and to see my mom’s reaction when I told her. To be part of such a significant organization and one that means a lot to my family is special to me.”

Though the 6-foot-6 starter mentioned that his free agent process required much independence, seeing as he negotiated his contract himself without the help of an agent, he also expressed gratitude for the support he received from his family, friends, teammates and coaches. 

Kipp spoke to the News from South Carolina, where he is currently playing for the Cubs’ Single-A affiliate, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Though he said “the Minor League grind is real,” requiring him to play six days a week, he added that it has also “been a blast” and that he has enjoyed spending time with his new teammates. 

However, the right-hander told the News that he was most excited about contributing to his organization. The Cubs, who took 17 pitchers out of 20 picks in this year’s draft, have been looking to expand their pitching depth and quality. Kipp will become part of this plan.

“As a minor leaguer, I’m definitely looking forward to just developing,” Kipp said. “With how much the Cubs have invested in pitching, I’m really excited to get to the instructional league … and getting in the pitching lab literally and metaphorically in terms of throwing harder and developing better pitches. During the offseason, I’ll also be training hopefully with [Walsh] and other Yale alumni. That’s really my starting point, and I also hope to use my training from the offseason to try to advance in the ranks. Then, my long-term goals as a professional player are to make it to the big leagues and make a career out of it. If I can get there and play baseball for a living, that’s a good life. It’s been my dream.”

Both Walsh and Kipp expressed their mutual appreciation for each other and happiness for their accomplishments. Walsh told the News that he considered the Texan to be like a “big brother” and that he was “one of the greatest people [he had] ever met in his life,” adding that he was thrilled to see Kipp’s hard work rewarded.

The two of them had first met when Kipp was a first year at Yale and Walsh was a senior in high school. Kipp hosted Walsh in his suite during the latter’s first official visit to the University, starting their friendship. Both pitchers are now excited to maintain their bond at the professional level.

“I could not have been happier for [Walsh],” Kipp said. “Loved that guy from the first moment I met him. He’s just full of energy, and brings so much passion and joy to the game of baseball. I always looked forward to getting out to the field and throwing with [Walsh]. He means the world to me. I’m really excited to see what he can do. The possibilities are endless.”

This year, the 2022 MLB draft took place between July 17 and July 19.

Wei-Ting Shih covers baseball, volleyball and women's basketball as a staff reporter. Originally from Taiwan and Nicaragua, she is a sophomore in Grace Hopper College double-majoring in Ethics, Politics & Economics and History.