‘I just fulfilled a dream I had as a kid:’ Holden reflects after going pro


Sean Marty / The Sunflower

Connor Holden throws a pitch during WSU’s game against South Dakota State on March 13 inside Eck Stadium.

After getting offered to play as an undrafted free agent for the Detroit Tigers this week, the Wichita State right-handed pitcher Connor Holden is about to head out to Florida to begin his professional baseball career. 

News of Holden signing with the professional baseball team dropped Thursday.

“The Tigers were the first team to give me a chance so I jumped at it,” Holden said. “It goes back to being a little kid – always dreaming about ‘hey, like could that be me one day on the TV.’ Now, I get an opportunity to try to get there.”

The Louisville, Kentucky native started his collegiate career at Murray State before becoming a Shocker.

“I came as a grad transfer to Wichita State and my whole decision behind that, coming from my previous school, was that I wanted a chance to play at the next level,” Holden said.

This past spring, Holden led the Shockers with a 2.78 ERA and six saves over the course of 25 appearances out of the bullpen.

In 35.2 innings, Holden only allowed 27 hits from his opponents. Holden held his opponents to a .205 batting average, the best on staff.

“I would say the five total years that I played (in college) has helped a lot,” Holden said. “I would say that I feel like I’m very ready to take on this challenge. … I’m still learning the game but I feel like I have a really good grasp of it.”

Holden attributed much of his success at Wichita State to the baseball team’s pitching coach Mike Pelfrey. 

Pelfrey was a former Wichita State standout pitcher and was named the program’s pitching coach in January of 2019. In 2021 during the 17th round of the MLB draft, he was also drafted by the Detroit Tigers – who he played with for one season.

“He told scouts about me, and he was telling people ‘I think this kid Connor deserves a shot at the next level,’” Holden said. “He’s probably my biggest mentor.”

With his professional career about to begin, the Shocker said he wants to enjoy the experience and take it all in with his family. 

“It’s about to become a job, but at the same time, I just fulfilled a dream I had as a kid,” Holden said. “I’m not going to stop working and just trust that God has a plan and that if I give it my all to just trust that he’s gonna lead me down the right path.”

Holden became the second consecutive Shocker to join the Tigers organization. He followed former right-hand pitcher Aaron Haase who was selected in the 17th round of the 2021 MLB Draft. Haase now pitches at Class-A Lakeland.