Whether it's the Noah Syndergaard-like hair, the hype or the internet video of his 110-mph pitch, it was only a matter of time before Michael Kopech got recognized on the street.
Turns out it took less than a day.
The White Sox farmhand — the No. 30 overall prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com — got a taste of his newfound notoriety after he arrived in Chicago on Thursday morning. Kopech, who's in town for SoxFest this weekend, said he was taking a stroll when suddenly a fan realized who he was.
"Most of the time, I'd go home and I can walk through a Walmart and say hi to everybody in Walmart and that's that," Kopech said. "It's a little different when I turn the corner in Chicago and I run into a person that recognizes me. It is something I have to get used to."
But it's not hard to understand why White Sox fans have made Kopech, 20, a focal point for their excitement. One of two signature pieces acquired from the Boston Red Sox in last month's Chris Sale trade, Kopech and infielder Yoan Moncada symbolize the franchise's decision to finally head in the opposite direction and rebuild.
Not only that, he possesses the kind of talent that made pitching coach Don Cooper say his "eyes lit up" when he watched video. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound right-hander followed a dominant half season at Single-A Salem with an outstanding showing in the Arizona Fall League. He has drawn comparisons to Syndergaard, the New York Mets' ace, and it's not just because the two feature shoulder-length blonde hair.
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And, of course, there's that video that surfaced last week when Kopech threw a pitch into a net at 110 mph in his first workout (the ball was weighted and he had a running start).
All of the above is sure to make Kopech an instant hit with White Sox fans even if he won't be in the majors right away.
While Kopech, who went to high school in Mt. Pleasant, Texas, population 16,000, doesn't mind the attention, he said it might take a minute for him to adjust.
"It's kind of surreal to have this much attention on me because a small town out of Texas is where I grew up," Kopech said. "All of this has been surreal, but I'm extremely excited about it.
"I don't mind it. It's cool. I like interacting with people."
Kopech spent 90 minutes talking to season-ticket holders on Thursday afternoon. One informed him he isn't allowed to call Guaranteed Rate Field anything but "The Cell." Another wanted his opinion of new manager Rick Renteria, who Kopech hasn't yet been introduced to. But most wanted to express their excitement about the team's new direction, an enthusiasm Kopech also feels.
"The fans have been very excited, but I've been pretty excited myself," Kopech said. "I think I just learned more from them than they probably will from me. It's pretty cool we get to interact with them and see how devoted these fans actually are."