Summer 2024

Arkansas' Kevin Kopps wins famed Golden Spikes Award: 'As a leader, I just try to be Christlike'

Former Arkansas relief pitcher Kevin Kopps capped off an incredible season when it was announced Thursday that he won the Golden Spikes Award, given to the best amateur baseball player each season.

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In an interview with ESPN following the announcement, Kopps thanked God as well as everyone else who helped him achieve this accolade.

“It feels surreal,” Kopps said about his emotions after winning the award. “I think it’s an incredible blessing by God. I couldn’t have been here without Him, my parents, coaches, teammates. But honestly, I still feel like Kevin. I don’t feel any different.”

This season marked the first time the award was given to a player whose primary role was as a relief pitcher. And Kopps is just the second Arkansas player to receive the award, after Andrew Benintendi, who won it in 2015.

For the Golden Spikes honor, Kopps beat out Vanderbilt star pitchers Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker, both of whom were first-round picks in this past week’s 2021 MLB Draft. Kopps was selected 99th overall (in the third round) by the San Diego Padres.

Kopps received several other awards this season, including being named a first-team All-American, winning the Dick Howser Trophy, Collegiate Baseball and D1Baseball National Player of the Year awards, Perfect Game/Rawlings and College Baseball Foundation Pitcher of the Year awards, and the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award.

Kopps finished the 2021 season with an ERA of 0.90 in 89.2 innings pitched, a program record for the Razorbacks, while also notching 12 wins and 11 saves. The Razorbacks’ bullpen as a whole recorded 567 strikeouts, another single-season program record. His performance no doubt contributed to the Razorbacks’ stellar record of 50-13 overall and 22-8 conference record.

Despite Arkansas’ success during the regular season, a pair of losses to North Carolina State in the NCAA Super Regionals prevented the team from competing in the College World Series. That second loss was the only game in which Kopps started for Arkansas this season.

The 2021 season was a major improvement for Kopps over his 2020 contributions, in which he held an ERA of 8.18 with 11.0 innings pitched.

“I got desperate,” Kopps said about his success in 2021. “It turned more into a ‘need to’ instead of a ‘want to.’ Thankfully, I had a whole year to develop myself, kind of get back to the drawing board with everything I was doing and get back to who I am instead of who I was trying to be.”

While Kopps looks forward to what lies ahead in his baseball career, Arkansas will always be a special place in his life.

“It’s meant so much,” Kopps said about his time at Arkansas. “As a leader, I just try to be Christlike, and I think people just recognize that and appreciate that. My time here — Arkansas feels like home. I’m going to miss it a lot when I have to leave.”

An outspoken believer in Christ, Kopps does not shy away from sharing his faith. He has three Bible verses listed in his Twitter bioGalatians 6:9, Psalm 34:18, and Luke 6:29. He also consistently credits God with his baseball success.

“I think God has blessed me beyond what I could’ve imagined this season,” Kopps told the media prior to the SEC Tournament. “I don’t think I ever dreamed it would turn into something like this, but I’m very thankful for that.”

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