PALM BEACH, Fla. — Kyle Helisek headed back into the locker room after a game in Bradenton and got some exciting news from Palm Beach Cardinals manager Dann Bilardello.
Helisek, a Seneca Valley graduate in his third season of professional baseball, was headed to his first all-star game.
Helisek’s appearance in the Florida State League All-Star Game June 14 in Bradenton lasted eight pitches.
“It was a great experience and I got to play with a lot of great baseball players,” said Helisek, who worked a perfect inning in the South Division’s 6-4 loss. “It was really neat to see.”
Helisek, who pitches for the St. Louis Cardinals’ High Class A team, is 4-2 with a 2.59 ERA in 11 starts this season.
He’s struck out 36 batters and allowed 48 hits.
“I am definitely feeling more comfortable on the mound, trying to be more aggressive and give my team a chance to win,” Helisek said.
Helisek was 7-7 with a 3.13 ERA last year in 23 starts for Peoria in Low A.
Bilardello, who played for the Pirates for parts of two seasons, has coached Helisek at every level since he was drafted. He has seen good improvement in him.
“He has improved in all aspects of the game. He’s still a work in progress and has to keep going,” Bilardello said. “Just because you make an all-star game doesn’t mean you can quit working. Baseball is a game that can put you down real quick.”
Helisek gets a lot of time to work on his development. The Palm Beach team uses a six-man rotation, giving Helisek a little extra time between starts.
He typically throws at least one bullpen session and talks with pitching coach Ace Adams.
“The six-man rotation gives you a chance to wipe everything clean from one start to the next start,” Helisek said. “If there’s something you need to work on, you have plenty of time to work on it. It’s not like they are rushing you between starts.”
Bilardello said that Helisek has a steady demeanor. Right now, Helisek is trying to work on being more consistent with his fastball command.
“He’s throwing the ball well and is consistently better in the strike zone. Sometimes he tries to be too fine,” Bilardello said. “The curveball is much better at times. It’s still improving. That’s what you expect. It’s his third year and you expect those things to get better and it has.”
Helisek, who is one of three Seneca Valley graduates in the minor leagues, says he still keeps in touch with Raiders’ coach Eric Semega. Kevan Smith is with the White Sox organization and Cory Mazzoni pitches for the New York Mets organization.
“He texts me before starts and tells me to keep it going,” Helisek said. “We still keep in touch. It’s nice.”
Helisek hopes to continue his improvement, so he can continue to add to his accolades.
“It was always in the back of your mind, but you’re always surprised to get an accomplishment like that,” Helisek said about making the all-star game. “But I was really excited and happy about it.”