In recent years, Howard County has done fairly well in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
Last year, Columbia native Ryan Kemp, a Mount St. Joseph grad, was drafted in the 14th round by the Cincinatti Reds and is pitching with the Class A Dayton Dragons. In 2010, Oakland Mills grad Drew Permison, a right-handed pitcher with the Class A Advanced Dunedin Blue Jays, was selected out of Towson in the 42nd round by Toronto. In 2009, Centennial alum Scott Swinson — now playing with the Class A Greenville Drive — was selected by the Baltimore Orioles in the 46th round. And in 2008, Atholton grad Steve Lombardozzi, now a productive big leaguer with the Nationals, was drafted by Washington in the 19th round.
While even the most ardent local baseball follower might not recognize any of the names in this year's draft as local products, a Howard County player has once again been tapped to get a chance to play pro baseball.
Although he played only one year of high school varsity baseball, at St. Paul's School near Towson, before playing his college ball for Wake Forest and Ohio State, recent Pittsburgh Pirates 18th-round draft pick John Kuchno is an Ellicott City native.
Kuchno, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound right-hander, was 8-4 this year as a redshirt sophomore at Ohio State with 59 strikeouts and 30 walks in 74 innings. He was selected 556th overall on June 6.
"John has tons of ability and continues to make improvements to his pitch quality and consistency. When he figures it out he will be really good," Ohio State coach Greg Beals said on the team's official website.
Kuchno attended Glenelg Country School from kindergarten through eighth grade before heading to St. Paul's. He played two years of basketball there, and is a political science and journalism major at Ohio State.
His parents, John and Vicki, still live in Ellicott City, and his older sister, Mary Beth, graduated from Glenelg Country School, where she played lacrosse and basketball.
Kuchno got his start playing tee ball with the Columbia Youth Baseball Association at age 4, with his father as his coach, before moving on to a lengthy stay with the Howard County Youth Program.
"He was an HCYP guy for a long time," the elder Kuchno said. "He played literally every position on the field ... he's always loved the (HCYP) Raiders and he wouldn't be where he is today without all of the coaches and teammates that he played with."