‘There’s a rich baseball history.’ Former PSU pitcher Virbitsky discusses trade to Orioles

Noah Riffe/

Former Penn State right-handed pitcher Kyle Virbitsky is headed back to the East Coast.

Virbitsky was traded from the Oakland Athletics, along with left-handed starting pitcher Cole Irvin to the Baltimore Orioles for infielding prospect Darrell Hernaiz on Jan. 26. The move marked an early upheaval early in the career of the Media, Pa. native and an opportunity to play closer to family and friends.

He was drafted in the 17th round of the 2021 MLB June Amateur Draft by the Athletics. In his first year of professional baseball in 2021, Virbitsky pitched to 1-2 record with Oakland’s High-A Lansing Lugnuts, making three starts in seven appearances with a 3.38 earned-run average and a strikeout rate of 12.4 batters per nine innings. He split his time between High-A Lansing and Low-A Stockton in 2022, pitching to a 4.63 ERA in 23 appearances (22 starts) in 126.1 innings pitched, while striking out 10 batters per nine innings.

The 6-foot-7, 235-pound pitcher recently spoke with the Centre Daily Times about the trade, his chance to return to a place that he’s familiar with, the ability to grow with a budding organization in Baltimore that features a number of top prospects and an analytics department that has improved over the years.

Centre Daily Times: You’ve been with Oakland for a while and now you’re coming back to the East Coast. How does that feel for you?

Kyle Virbitsky: I have nothing but outstanding things to say about the Athletics. They gave me my chance to enter my career in pro ball and to say I’ve met some unbelievable people along the way would be a disservice to them. They’ve really been some of the most impactful people that I’ve met in my life, between my teammates, coaches and front office people. I really have nothing but tremendous things to say. To get traded out of there is a shock to say the least. However, to be wanted is a dream come true. I didn’t see it coming, but I was shocked and speechless. I was really, really thankful for my time with the A’s. I didn’t expect it to end quite like that. Baseball is a business too and there’s a whole other side to the game that is different than just playing it and that’s all part of it. I’m really excited for the opportunity with Baltimore.

CDT: As a person that grew up not too far from Philly, how nice is to be to closer to Penn State, your hometown and number of different places that are familiar to you?

KV: The first person that I told when I was home (was my) dad — the two of us instantly — it hit us. He took a quick peek at all of where all of the Baltimore affiliates are. I actually knew one of them off of the top of my head — the Aberdeen Ironbirds at the Cal Ripken complex. That team is high-A and I played at that stadium when I was 14 years old. I played more tournament baseball at that Cal Ripken complex than probably any other place outside of my hometown. It was one of the most commonly traveled tournaments in my area. I’ve got nothing but great experiences going down there. With Penn State, about every year that I was there, we would take a trip every opening weekend down to the Ripken complex. They had a turf field right outside of the stadium and we would have an intersquad practice. At State College it’s cold, so we would do everything in Holuba Hall. I’m very familiar with that pocket of the Orioles system.

CDT: What are your expectations of heading into an organization in Baltimore that’s in the process of building its farm system with a number of players that are ready to make their move up?

KV: Everything I’ve heard, I’ve gotten the opportunity to speak to a couple of people on the Baltimore side, I talked to their GM (Mike Elias) yesterday, I talked to their pitching coordinator (Chris Holt) and I actually train with a couple of guys that are in the Baltimore organization. In fact, one of our branch campuses — there’s Toby Welk who came out of Penn State branch campus and he’s been Double-A with the Orioles and he rakes. He’s a phenomenal hitter, but I was actually with him earlier today. To be around those guys and and just hear a little bit more about their system and to hear it from the pitching coordinator, to hear from other people I’m close with it sounds like they’re on the the cutting edge of a lot of the player development stuff. There’s a lot of new school technology — a motion capture lab. There’s really outstanding resources that hopefully will give me the chance to continue to develop.

CDT: Were you able to speak with Penn State player development coach Jake Stone about his time with Baltimore?

KV: It’s funny, he actually reached out to me yesterday. It was a big congratulatory text. That was one of the things that he mentioned. He spent some time in Baltimore before he came to the Penn State team. With the connections that he has there, he told me, “Man, you’re going to love it. It’s a great fit.” I feel like I’m going to meet a lot of really great people and it’s funny because you go through all of this stuff in the baseball world and it shrinks down to as small as your hand. You’re really never more than one or two connections off of anyone at this level of the game.

CDT: How do you feel about playing in Camden Yards one day? How does it rank in your top stadiums?

KV: When I was probably 10, 11 and 12 years old, if not once or twice a year we’d go down to that Ripken Experience tournament. The whole goal of the tournament was to get into the championship game that was played at the mini version of Camden Yards. You’ve got the big Marriott in the background and it’s a little different dimensions because it’s a Little League field. Everything looks the same as the stadium, but that would be the one that I’d look forward to the most. ... Now for me, I’m a big kid and I have that same opportunity to chase that dream to get to Camden Yards and I’d be floored to get the opportunity to get there. It’s an awesome fanbase. There’s a rich baseball history.

CDT: Where do you see yourself moving forward within the Baltimore organization? There’s a lot of data-driven player development with its program. How do you feel that it will further your career?

KV: I’m very fortunate because at Penn State I got exposed to a lot of that stuff. Jake Stone was at the cutting edge of a lot of that and he does the Simple Sabermetrics page. He’s affluent in all of the data and analytical-based training side. When our other coach — Sean Moore — got to Penn State, he was on that side of the cutting edge technology. I’ve gotten a lot of exposure to those kinds of programs. I’ve gotten into Driveline and that era of baseball training for awhile now. I’m really fortunate because I’ve had a taste of the old school training too and that’s made me a little bit of the pitcher that I am today. My goal is to get outs. I want my teammates to win. I want to go deep as a starter and I want to leave that game for whoever is coming in after me if I couldn’t go the distance.