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Kolton Ingram Takes The Lead As Bullpen Ace

Kolton Ingram has been a dominant arm for Rocket City. (Cristina Byrne-Sternberg/Rocket City Trash Pandas)
September 6, 2022

Trash Pandas reliever Kolton Ingram’s been on a winding road for the early part of his professional baseball career. Originally a 37th round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers in 2019, his career was derailed by the pandemic in 2020 before winding up with the Angels heading into the 2021

Trash Pandas reliever Kolton Ingram’s been on a winding road for the early part of his professional baseball career. Originally a 37th round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers in 2019, his career was derailed by the pandemic in 2020 before winding up with the Angels heading into the 2021 season. Last year, he ended the season as the Trash Pandas’ closer and has returned as one of the more experienced relievers on a younger Rocket City squad in 2022. Entering the final two weeks of the regular season, his 12 holds are tied for the Southern League lead while nine saves are tied for sixth in the league.

Recently, he talked about his role on the playoff-bound Trash Pandas and the journey to get to where he is today as the regular season nears its end and the playoffs approach..

Q: What were you doing when you got drafted?
A: I was at work. I was working for a contracting company near my college and I kept my phone all around me all day. I felt like I kept hearing ghost buzzing on my phone. Around the 34th or 35th round, I called my mom and told her it wasn’t going to happen. I was at my apartment with my girlfriend, and she noticed my phone was ringing. I picked it up and it was the Tigers saying them picked me in the 37th round. I didn’t have much time to react but after that I had a ton of phone calls. I wasn’t expecting anything, I hadn’t heard from anyone then all of the sudden it fell into my lap.

Q: As a 37th round pick, what was your signing bonus?
A: I got a signing bonus of about $900 and I bought my Nintendo Switch, I still have it and it’s keeping me entertained.

Q: After the Tigers let you go, how did the second chance come?
A: It was a funny situation. I had a good year in the half season I spent with the Tigers but I was released during the pandemic because they were cutting teams and I was the low man on the totem pole. I didn’t feel it was because of my ability. So I got on the phone with my agent and he told me there were opportunities but I needed to add some velocity. I spent the whole COVID season and offseason working hard and trying to get that velocity up. Once I did, I had already signed to a team in an independent league and I threw for Sean McLaughlin in his trackman and got the Angels involved and tried to make the best of the situation.

Q: When you finally started last season, you got assigned to Low-A Inland Empire in California. How was the experience of being that far away from home in your first time with an affiliate?
A: It was crazy. I’d never been with an affiliate before. When I broke camp, I was asked if I’d be ok going to Low-A and I told them and said I’m happy to be breaking at all. I’d never been to California before. Before signing with the Angels, I’d never been more west than Texas. Getting that California experience was amazing. When I finally got the call to go to High-A, my parents had just drove the car from Georgia to California. The next day I hopped in the car and drove from California to Washington. It was really cool to see the whole west coast and drive up that way. It was a beautiful road trip.

Kolton Ingram made his Double-A debut for the Trash Pandas in July 2021. Javier Sanchez/Rocket City Trash Pandas

Q: What was the moment like when you got called up here last year?
A: It was right before a game. It was cool. I still got to dress up and sit in the bullpen for one more game. I got the call with Cristopher Molina. Andy just brought us into the locker room and told us in front of the whole team. I was able to go outside and call my parents. It was cool getting that opportunity to be called up in front of the team and celebrate with my teammates.

Q: What’s it been like working with Manager Andy Schatzley last year and this year?
A: It was really cool. Last year when I got promoted here, we both got emotional because we both know where we both came from. We both came from the Division 2 level. Even when I found out he was going to be the manager in Double-A, you can’t help but get excited. He’s a really good manager. He knows how to keep up us all in line while letting us let loose a little while. It’s been really fun.

Q: How did you become the closer here last year and what was the adjustment to that role?
A: I can say one thing. Going from Tri-City to here definitely feels like the big leagues. The atmosphere is great. Going out there and competing. Once I get on the mound, my mom always gets on me because she screams for me and I don’t hear it, I kind of black out on the mound. I don’t notice when it’s a high leverage situation. I just go out there and compete and it’s worked out to the point where I’ve been thrown in those situations and tried to make the best of it to stay in those.

Q: How is it taking on the role of a veteran leader compared to some of these other pitchers when you yourself are still pretty young?
A: Some of those guys have seen and dealt with some learning curves. But overall most of these guys have pitched at pretty big schools and have been in those situations so they have a good maturity level as far as routines and going into their pitching styles. They have asked questions and it does feel weird to know that last year I was the youngest guy in the bullpen and now I’m one of the oldest. It’s been cool to embrace it, help these guys out, and try to keep everyone on track.

Q: What was the feeling like to get the final outs of the last two games to clinch the first half title?
A: It was unreal. Saturday night was one for the books but Sunday when I got that final out, I was in shock for a second because I never really won anything like that. We went to the World Series in college but couldn’t finish it off. The atmosphere of finishing that first half, seeing the work we put in over the whole couple months come to fruition to be able to spend it with those guys.

Q: What’s the thing that most excites you about playing in the playoffs here?
A: That’s what it is. I feel like a veteran now, coming back for another year and spending it with a whole new group of guys, winning the first half and hopefully winning the second half. I’m looking forward to what the atmosphere brings to this stadium. It’s already electric and having playoff baseball for the first time will be really cool.