Chiefs Pitcher Evan Kruczynski Honors His Mentor

ECU Grad is Advocate for ALS Awareness

Peoria, Illinois - Within a month, Peoria Chiefs pitcher Evan Kruczynski experienced a professional high and a personal low. In June, he was taken by the St. Louis Cardinals in the ninth round of the M-L-B Draft. Weeks before the selection, Kruczynski had to deal with the loss of one of his mentors.  

"The relationship that I grew with him throughout the years, it was heartbreaking," Kruczynski said.

Dr. Nelson Cooper was both an advisor and teacher for Kruczynski at East Carolina University while giving additional support as a fan of the Pirates baseball team. The southpaw describes Cooper as a selfless individual who was always willing to help him out with anything. 

"He wouldn't just hand it to me. He would make me work hard but he'd always be there to help me through everything, that's just the way he was," Kruczynski said.

Everything changed in June of last year when Cooper was diagnosed with A-L-S. The discovery would only strengthen Kruczynski's relationship with the instructor.

"He would be that kind of to have a special relationship with someone who has special needs. He is a genuine person and he has developed personal relationships with everyone in the clubhouse," Chris Swauger said.

East Carolina baseball would dedicate the 20-17 season to Cooper, making it as far as the conference championship game, playing under the motto Coop Strong. As Kruczynski continues the early stages of his minor league career, he looks to carry on the memory of Cooper both on the field and with his actions off of it.

"ALS isn't only important to me but to the whole East Carolina baseball program and Id love to one day start a foundation to raise awareness," Kruczynski said.

Kruczynski continues his quest to make it to the majors, all while honoring his teacher, fan, and friend by being Coop Strong.


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