Mike Koplove’s contributions to baseball might have escaped some fans in the local area.
Having played the majority of his Major League Baseball career in the Pacific Time Zone, only the baseball diehards and night owls got to see Koplove striking out batters with regularity as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the early 2000s.
But many back in Koplove’s hometown of Philadelphia certainly took notice. The South Philly native, who grew up in the Packer Park neighborhood, recently received a call to be inducted into the City All Star Chapter Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020.
“It’s quite an honor,” Koplove said. “I look at the list of names that have been inducted and it’s a who’s-who of Philadelphia sports heroes, so to be inducted alongside some of them is pretty amazing to me.”
At the time of the phone interview with the South Philly Review a few weeks ago, Koplove was enjoying the second phase of his baseball career, scouting a baseball game in Mississippi for his hometown Philadelphia Phillies.
After six years of working in the Los Angeles Angels’ scouting department, Koplove returned home to work for the Phillies. He’s now in his third year of scouting for the Phils.
“I can’t ask for more as a kid growing up in Philly to work for the team that you grew up cheering for,” Koplove said. “It’s a really good group of guys that I work with and a good atmosphere. It gives me another reason to cheer for the Phillies.”
Koplove, a graduate of Chestnut Hill Academy, joined the Diamondbacks during their World Series championship run in 2001. Known as a sidearm relief pitcher, he spent six seasons with Arizona and then briefly played for the Cleveland Indians in 2007. During his major league career, Koplove played in 222 games and had a record of 15-7 with a 3.82 ERA with 175 strikeouts.
Although his major league career was finished, Koplove wasn’t done pitching in big games.
He was selected by Team USA to compete in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, where he helped the Americans capture a bronze medal. Koplove didn’t allow a hit in 5 and 1/3 innings in his time there. It was the last time baseball was recognized as an official Olympic sport, although it is scheduled to return to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
After the Olympics, Koplove returned to the States to play minor league ball for another three years before turning his attention to scouting. He said it was a tough adjustment at first but he’s enjoying being on the other side of the diamond.
“When I first got done playing it was a challenging decision to put aside an entire life’s worth of work and try something different,” Koplove said. “But it’s still in baseball, and I’m doing my part to help build a winning team in a different way now.”
A Haddonfield resident the last five years, Koplove is tasked with watching high-end high school and college prospects closely, mostly players who would be selected in the early rounds of the MLB Draft.
“There would be days where I missed playing but to be able to go to the ballpark every day and see a game and see good players is rewarding in a different sense,” he said.
Instead of throwing a curveball, Koplove recently had one thrown his way as the City All Star Chapter Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame banquet was postponed until next year due to the COVID-19 scare.
He’ll be invited back next year with the same class. It will give Koplove more time to work on his speech, although he’s quite familiar with giving one. Just last year, Koplove was inducted into the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, another honor he holds closely.
“It’s a terrific honor,” Koplove said. “Neither of those things were things I really considered as something that would happen. And when I got the call last year about the Philadelphia Jewish Hall of Fame, obviously it was a great moment for me and my family.”
Koplove will join his second Hall of Fame next year.
“I’m excited to meet the former inductees and the current ones that are going in beside me,” Koplove said. “Seeing some familiar faces I haven’t seen in a while. And getting to hear more about the Hall of Fame themselves and hear what it’s all about.”