When Aidan Keenan’s older brother Tyler committed to play baseball at Sacramento State in August 2019, it gave him some added inspiration to start grinding everyday.
From that moment to early 2021, Keenan hit a growth spurt, got in the weight room, gained 40 pounds and started pumping out 90 mph fastballs. When one of Aidan’s dream schools—Cal Berkeley—made an offer last November, he talked it over with his family before making a verbal commitment to the Pac-12 school.
Just like that, Keenan achieved one of his major goals in his sophomore year of high school: the opportunity to continue his education and play baseball at one of his top three university choices (Stanford and UCLA being the others).
Like the sudden uptick in his fastball—it went from the high 70s in late 2019 to topping out at 91 mph in early 2021—Cal’s interest and offer came out of nowhere.
Make no mistake: even though it was a rapid ascent, Keenan put in a lot of long hours to get to this point.
“I was going to wait for offers, but I didn’t think I’d get another big offer like that from a Pac-12 school so I didn’t want to turn it down,” said Keenan, who will start his junior year at Live Oak High in late August. “It was a pretty big deal because Cal was one of my top three schools and I wanted to make sure I went to a high academic school.”
Keenan has been keeping busy this summer training at Kinetic Performance Institute (KPI) and playing in tournaments with Northern California traveling team Alpha Prime. In one of the team’s latest outings near Lathrop, the 6-foot-1, 170-pound right-hander earned MVP Pitcher honors in the Perfect Game 17U West Elite tournament by pitching five shutout innings in the championship game, recording eight strikeouts and escaping a bases-loaded jam in the process.
“I was hitting my spots and my curveball was really good,” he said.
In a previous showcase tournament in Arizona featuring 102 teams from across the country, Alpha Prime’s 17U team took fifth place. In one start, Keenan allowed no earned runs in five innings, striking out 10, including eight in a row at one point. Keenan carries a 4.05 GPA and will take three Advanced Placement classes in his upcoming junior year.
Even though Keenan takes his academics seriously, he’s got a laser-eye focus on baseball. By the end of the summer, he wants to hit 94 mph on the radar gun. Upon graduating from high school or while he is in college, he wants to be a high-round MLB draft selection.
“By the start of next high school season (February 2022), I want to be hitting 95 (mph),” he said. “I’ve hit 92 a couple of times, and I’m working on my changeup right now and playing around with the grips. My curve has been improving a lot, and I’ve also been practicing on a slider, which has helped me with the curveball.”
Keenan was named the Blossom Valley League’s Mount Hamilton Division Sophomore of the Year this past season after posting 31 strikeouts and a 0.70 ERA in 30 innings pitched in league play.
Keenan credited Erik Wagle—the president of Dub Baseball and founder of KPI—for keeping him on track to reach his athletic goals.
“Erik has been like my uncle always having my back,” Keenan said. “He knows what he’s doing, and he’s not afraid to yell at me.”
Keenan said there’s little chance of him developing an inflated ego because his parents and Wagle keep him in check.
“They keep me humble,” said Keenan, who turns 17 in March. “They don’t really let me celebrate anything. Whenever I do something good, they always say there’s more to be done. And I know I definitely have a lot more to improve and a lot more gains to make, but I like where I’m at right now.”
When Keenan isn’t throwing bullpen sessions, training at KPI or traveling for tournaments, he spends his time hanging out with friends and swimming. One of his close friends happens to be another Live Oak standout right-handed pitcher, Landon Stump, who has committed to Pac-12 power Oregon.
On June 7, Keenan and Stump were chosen by MLB scouts to play in the prestigious Area Code Underclassmen Games on Aug. 12-14 at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. The two have been on an incredible journey together, one they hope will culminate in a Central Coast Section championship either in their junior or senior years, or both.
The Area Code Underclassmen Games feature the top 150 high school baseball players from the class of 2023 and 2024, with seven regional teams competing under the watchful eyes of scouts from all 30 MLB teams and NCAA baseball coaches, per areacodebaseball.com.
“We played on the same travel team when we were 9 and have pretty much been on the same travel teams since then,” Keenan said. “We definitely push each other in the weight room and on the field.”
Keenan has a strict pitching program, throwing a specific amount of pitches on certain days, including some sessions with weighted balls.
“I’ll have one BP (bullpen) per week, all based on if I’m pitching in a tournament that week or not,” he said.
When Keenan sees how far he’s come, he’s humbled upon reflecting on his journey. “A year ago I never thought I’d be throwing as hard as I am now,” he said. “But I want to continue to get better.”