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The Paul Skenes Show – The American Conservative

He did it again. In only his fourth start in the Major Leagues, the Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Paul Skenes put on the kind of dominant display we’ve come to associate with the game’s very best.

With unhittable fastballs that rip the triple digits and a sinker that baffles seasoned hitters, Skenes is already showing a command of the mound that belies his youthful age. He was particularly electric in the 4th inning on Wednesday, whiffing the entire side of hapless Detroit Tigers en route to his second win of the season. In total, he struck out nine, only two shy of the 11 he fanned during a sterling performance at historic Wrigley Field on May 17th. 

“That’s what he does!” shouted the Pirates play-by-play announcer as another ball fired past a stymied Tigers bat. The internet concurred: “He’s a generational talent,” read one viral tweet. “They can’t touch his splinker!” said another. “He pitches like a 10-year vet,” marveled a third.

The “splinker” is a hybrid pitch that might be the young phenom’s greatest asset. It rains down with thunder and fury on the batter before diving wildly at the last second to elude any thoughts of a hit. It’s the sort of pitch that looks to leave hitters struggling for years to come.

Skenes won everything during a one-year stint at LSU. Inside the diamond, Skenes led LSU to a national title in 2023 while being named both the best player in college baseball and National Pitcher of the Year. Off the field, Skenes dates the gymnast and social media influencer Olivia Dunne, who, much like Taylor Swift, has already begun to make appearances at his games in Pittsburgh. 

It couldn’t have happened to a better sports city. Pittsburgh has long been home to some of America’s favorite teams and players. From Jerome Bettis and the Steelers to Jaromir Jagr’s Penguins, Steel Town has always featured tough, hard-nosed teams that can captivate even the casual American sports fan.

Pittsburgh, for its part, has embraced Skenes. Nearly 35,000 fans recently poured into PNC Park, almost double the club’s average this season, and fans were spotted in the stands wearing glued-on handlebar mustaches in honor of Skenes. 

“The place was packed. Fans were standing every time he threw a strike. Old-school baseball returned to Pittsburgh.”

The #1 pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, Skenes is unmissable. Standing 6’6” and rocking a handlebar mustache, he wears a silver crucifix necklace on the mound. Skenes credits a year spent in the U.S. Air Force Academy as crucial to his transformation into the strikingly confident man who has taken the MLB by storm. 

“You get one phone call during basic; you’re away from your family as an 18-year-old,” Skenes told Military.com. “You’re forced to figure out life really quickly and figure out how to make new friendships, and self-leadership, all that, discipline.”

Air Force coach Mike Kazlausky, who calls Skenes “a true All-American,” recently told USA Today that Skenes will rejoin the military following his playing career.

“He will serve his country in some manner moving forward. It’s just going to be a matter of when. Paul and I have spoken about that piece. We’ll get him back in the military once his professional playing days are over. It’s a big deal for Paul to be able to serve our country.”

When Kazlausky says Skenes is “a true All-American,” he means it. The Air Force coach recalled a character-defining moment from Skenes shortly after Biden’s chaotic exit from Afghanistan:

We see two football managers in an open-air video booth, and they’re not quite at a position of attention. The song ends, the national anthem’s over, and Skenes immediately races up the hill and confronts these two cadets at our school and says, ‘We just lost 13 Americans over in Afghanistan, stand at a frickin’ proper position of attention!’

Reflecting on his time in the Air Force, Skenes was blunt: “Those 37 days, I never want to do that again, but it’s 100% shaped who I am today.” 

And who he is today is arguably the hottest prospect in the Big Leagues. Skenes is already a top contender in the Rookie of the Year race. If Pittsburgh is smart, they’ll surround him with the type of offensive weapons that could render the Pirates an actual contender for years to come. One thing for certain; the Paul Skenes show is just getting started.



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