WICHITA, Kan. — Mike Pelfrey left Wichita State in 2005 as one of the greatest pitchers in the program's history. The Wichita native can be found in numerous career pitching records and he collected an impressive amount of awards in his three seasons as a Shocker. He was drafted as a junior, ninth overall by the New York Mets in the 2005 Major League Baseball draft to become the 10th Shocker overall to be taken in the first round and the fifth highest Shocker taken in WSU history.
Being able to play in his hometown was important to Pelfrey and the right-hander is honored to be a part of the Pizza Hut Shocker Sports Hall of Fame.
"Growing up in Wichita and having the opportunity to come here to play was a dream come true," Pelfrey said. "Wichita State baseball was the coolest thing in town to me and luckily I had the opportunity to come play here and I'm glad everything worked out while I was here. It feels pretty awesome to be recognized."
Pelfrey was a standout pitcher at Wichita Heights, where he racked up many records and awards, including being named the 2001 Kansas Gatorade Player-of-the-Year, a 2001 Rawlings District V All-American and he was Kansas all-state in 2001 and 2002.
He was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 15th round of the 2002 Major League Baseball draft after his senior season and was heavily recruited by some of the nation's top college baseball teams. Pelfrey had many options but the decision was made long before and it was an easy decision.
"I committed to Wichita State on the first possible day that I could," Pelfrey said. "I wasn't drafted as high as I had been told out by some so the decision to come here was easy."
Under the guidance of long-time Wichita State head coach Gene Stephenson, Pelfrey wasted little time making an impact for the Shockers in his freshman season. The team traveled to an early season series at Hawaii-Hilo and Pelfrey started against the Vulcans in the fifth game of the season. He pitched six scoreless innings and followed that performance with another six scoreless innings, this time against the University of Hawaii.
"Going to Hawaii those first couple weeks of the season was good for me because it was more laid back and not as much pressure," Pelfrey said. "I was able to get my feet wet in a no pressure environment and it helped me going forward that season."
Pelfrey, finished 2003 with a 10-2 record and 2.49 ERA with an impressive 98 strikeouts to just 15 walks and helped the team make the NCAA tournament. His list of freshman awards is impressive, as he was named the Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year and was a first team All-MVC selection as well as being named to the all Valley tournament team. He collected not only MVC awards but many national awards as well, as he was a first team All-Midwest Region selection and Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball named him a freshman all-American.
In his final season at WSU, he earned first-team All-America honors by Collegiate Baseball, American Baseball Coaches Association and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association after going 12-3 with a 1.93 ERA and 143 strikeouts. He finished his career with a 33-7 overall record with a Shocker record 2.18 ERA and is second in career strikeouts with 366. In his career he was also the Valley's 2004 and 2005 Pitcher of the Year, a three-time ABCA all-region selection and was named to the MVC 2007 All-Centennial team. He also was a member of the 2004 USA National team that won the gold medal at the World University Baseball Championship in Tainan, Taiwan. Pelfrey helped the Shockers win the MVC three times and they qualified for the NCAA tournament three times as well.
Even though he played against great teams in amazing locations throughout his collegiate career, Pelfrey's best memories from WSU are the relationships he formed with his teammates, Stephenson and the other coaches.
"The relationships I built with my teammates and the coaching staff are what I took away from here," Pelfrey said. "I still stay in contact with them and have great memories and I'm so fortunate to have been able to play in my hometown and in front of some of the best fans in the country, who always supported us."
The relationship between Pelfrey and Stephenson is especially close and both have many great things to say about each other.
Stephenson, who is in his 35th season at the helm of the Wichita State baseball program, says Pelfrey made the right decision to play college baseball.
"He gained so much here in his three seasons and prospered going to college," Stephenson said. "He went from being a man child with so many physical gifts to leaving here a man, who was able to see the world, gain discipline as a player and he matured both emotionally and physically on and off the field. He was a real joy to have come through the program."
Being able to play for Stephenson was important to Pelfrey and the two consider each other friends and they even have homes near each other in the Wichita area.
"It was awesome playing for Gene," Pelfrey said. "He built this program from the ground up and I came to a lot of games growing up and Wichita State baseball was larger than life. When I came and played here it was everything I thought it was going to be."
Just like at Wichita State, Pelfrey wasted little time making an impact in his first professional season with New York. He went 7-3 between three different minor league levels before the Mets called him up late in the 2006 season. He pitched well in the late season audition but started the 2007 season in the minors. It didn't take long though before he was called back to New York later that season. He has stayed in the big leagues for good since and has won 50 games in his six seasons and has become an innings eating pitcher, who has not gone less than 184 innings in his last four seasons.
Playing in New York City comes with intense pressure from Mets fans and the media coverage of sport in New York is the most intense in the entire world. It took some time but Pelfrey has come to accept living and playing in New York and dealing with everything that comes with being a New York athlete. Like most non New Yorkers he is not a fan of the traffic, the fast pace and the coverage of everything by the media.
Once the season is over he looks forward to returning to his newly finished Wichita home to spend time with his wife, Angela and his two kids, Chase, 2 and Madison, 11 months. Both his family and Angela's family live in the area, so Pelfrey has everything right here in Wichita when he is here.
"Coming back home each off-season is great especially after being in a fast-paced environment like New York," Pelfrey said. "Here in Wichita, I can sit back relax and its more my style. I've come to appreciate it more the longer I've been away playing."
—John Meyer, WSU Media Relations