The Untold Truth Of Paul Skenes

The MLB may have a bunch of dark secrets, but there's also plenty of bright spots worth talking about – like Pittsburgh Pirates newcomer Paul Skenes. Anyone who enjoys the sport will know that, despite his young age, Skenes is one of the hottest MLB players in the game today. But it's not just his pitching that's note-worthy. His journey to the big leagues has been punctuated by numerous impressive achievements.

Skenes, who's loved baseball since he was a kid, takes life off the pitcher's mound just as seriously. First, he graduated high school with a really impressive 4.76 GPA before joining the Air Force Academy. Indeed, Skenes is one of a handful of sports stars who pursued a surprising college degree, but ultimately, he chose baseball. After becoming a standout at Louisiana State University, the pitcher was the No.1 overall pick in the 2023 MLB draft and set a new signing bonus record with a cool $9.2 million.

Since then, he's continued making headlines, both with his pitching and his personal life. His relationship with Olivia Dunne has had folks talking since rumors of them dating first sprung up in 2023. However, it was his gameplay that became the focus again in May 2024 when the 6'6", 247-pound powerhouse made his MLB debut. And yet, there's still plenty to learn about the star pitcher. This is the untold truth of Paul Skenes.

Paul Skenes showed MLB potential at a young age

If you believe great athletes are born and not made, Paul Skenes is certainly a prime example. As his proud parents, Craig and Karen, told in 2024, they knew their son was destined for greatness early on. At just seven years old, Skenes was constantly playing with a baseball and watching as many games as he could on TV. "It's all I've ever done, really," he acknowledged. "Baseball is the only sport I ever wanted to play."

While he was trying out for USA Baseball's 12U National Team (for players aged 12 and under) in 2014, Skenes met his eventual high school coach, Mike Gonzalez. "He had a great arm and he had great mechanics," Gonzales told the Lafayette Daily Advertiser. Needless to say, Skenes made the official roster. Once he reached high school, Skenes had big shoes to fill. El Toro High and Gonzalez had already produced major leaguers Matt Chapman, Nolan Arenado, and Austin Romine by that time, but Skenes immediately stood out as something special. "Out of those four guys, Paul had the most power in batting practice in high school," Gonzalez told The Athletic. "Without a doubt, he could hit the ball farther at that time in high school than all three of those guys."

Skenes' sheer size was also on display as a 6-foot-1-inch freshman. "When he left, he was 6-7 or 6-whatever he is now," Gonzalez said, adding that the star player "was just a massive human being."

He second-guessed his future at the Air Force Academy

Once Paul Skenes graduated from El Toro High, he had no questions about where to go next. With his sights set on the military, Skenes enrolled in the United States Air Force Academy and (briefly) put baseball on the back burner. While he did join the team his freshman year, he opted for a relief pitcher role. Even so, his coaches were blown away by his hitting and catching, particularly his 92 mph fastballs. "I could go on for days with stories about that kid, but the one word I always use to tell people [about] him is he's 'superhuman,'" his former Air Force pitching coach, Ryan Forrest, told

However, Skenes remained practical about his MLB chances. "It's very hard at a professional level," his mom told "So while he always would bet on himself, he also had an understanding that it was going to take a lot of things lining up the right way." Although the baseball phenom had big league dreams, he also wanted to serve his country. "Playing professional baseball was a dream of mine, but it wasn't the primary dream," Skenes told "Really, all I wanted to do was play college baseball and go somewhere and know that I had a good career lined up ahead of me."

The Air Force Academy checked all those boxes, until he started second-guessing his own dreams. During his sophomore year, he wanted more game time and asked to be made the Friday night starter. His request was granted (he was also made captain), and it changed everything.

Paul Skenes once ripped into students for disrespecting the national anthem

To say the military was Paul Skenes' passion might be an understatement. The future baseball great took his time at the Air Force Academy seriously and was adamant that others do the same. As his former coach, Ryan Forrest, told, he'll never forget the time the former Mountain West Freshman of the Year ripped into two fellow cadets (not the guys above!) who he believed were disrespecting the United States and its military. "This is my favorite Paul Skenes story," Forrest began.

As the story goes, tradition dictated that the flag be brought down and the anthem played each day at 4:45 p.m. Everyone was expected to stand at attention during this time, but Skenes noticed two guys who weren't. Making their disregard for orders even more disrespectful was the fact that 13 service members had died in the headline-making Kabul airport attack earlier that day. The second the anthem ended, Skenes immediately gave the cadets a piece of his mind. "It shows the type of person Paul Skenes is," Forrest stated. "It shows his character. It shows his morals."

Fellow Air Force baseball coach Mike Kazlausky also remembers that incident with pride. "When you start talking about leadership, he doesn't look to his left and right and go, 'Hey, those kids weren't doing it right,'" he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "He took it upon himself to correct it [and] I think that tells you a lot about who he is as a person and as a man."

Skenes was real serious about grading dorm rooms

Paul Skenes is a stickler for rules. In addition to telling off students for disrespecting the national anthem, he was involved in another infamous incident at the Air Force Academy. One of Skenes' duties was to grade dorm rooms and ensure that everyone's bunks and belongings were in proper order. And, much like everything else, he took that job very seriously. 

One of his then-coaches, Mike Kazlausky, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Skenes didn't give anyone a pass, not even his fellow athletes. In particular, a basketball player who asked Skenes to overlook his messy quarters and what followed was another exchange for the ages. "He said, 'No, [expletive] you, clean your [bleeping] room," Kazlausky recalled. "Standards are a big deal to him."

Skenes' former roommate, Aerik Joe, corroborated those claims, telling that the future Pittsburgh Pirate did everything by the book. "He absolutely loved [the military]," Joe said. "He loved what it stood for, the people he was surrounded by." Indeed, despite balancing baseball with coursework (he majored in military and strategic studies) and various other duties, he never slipped up and was always on time for the 6 a.m. morning formation.

Ultimately, he had to choose between the military and baseball

Paul Skenes was faced with a difficult decision in 2022. While he was sure he wanted to serve, he also understood that would mean giving up his MLB dreams. Staying at the Air Force Academy would require him to postpone his baseball ambitions until after he graduated and finished his service. At that point, it may have been too late.

Ultimately, Skenes decided to enter the transfer portal and ended up at LSU. "That was the toughest decision of my life," Skenes told However, he knew that while the military might accept him later on in life, pro sports wouldn't. "I realized I've got one shot at this," he explained. "I've got a couple shots at serving." His coaches agreed, even if it wasn't easy. "He did not want to leave the academy,'" coach Mike Kazlausky told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "We kind of forced his hand to say, 'Paul, you can always serve at a later date.'"

It proved to be the right decision. While at LSU, Skenes put aside catching and hitting and honed in on pitching. With the right coaching and training, he soon solidified his status as a certified LSU legend. "I don't know if they changed my career, but they definitely got me on a better trajectory," Skenes said of his time at the school.

Cadet training prepared Skenes for sports greatness

Paul Skenes' passion for service runs deep and that passion is a family tradition. Two of his uncles are Navy veterans, while another is actively serving in the Coast Guard. Clearly, their experiences were a positive influence on Skenes' decision to one day be a fighter pilot. As a freshman at the Air Force Academy, he completed the notoriously difficult six-week Basic Cadet Training and saw it as a blessing. "You're forced to figure out life really [quickly]," he told "Those 37 days, I never want to do that again, but it's 100% shaped who I am today."

As a sophomore, his leadership blossomed as he continued to serve others. In addition to completing his own training and coursework, he tutored teammates in math and science and helped a South Korean exchange student improve his English. In short, he went above and beyond. As his dad proudly told The Athletic, "The academy did a lot of things for him in terms of transitioning from that boy to a man."

But it didn't just make him a better person, it made him a better athlete, too. While his dream of becoming a fighter pilot may not have come true (for now!), Skenes' time at the academy turned him into an invaluable asset on the pitchers' mound. As LSU coach Wes Johnson told The Athletic, it instilled in Skenes the "ability to stretch [his] mind to these uncomfortable limits."

He torched the minor leagues on the way to his big league debut

Skenes was at LSU for less than a year when he selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates with 1st overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft. Pirates manager Derek Shelton received a call soon after from his old friend and Skenes' LSU pitching coach, Wes Johnson. "He told me he was one of the most advanced pitchers he had been around in college," Shelton told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Then who he is as a person, aside from pitching, is really elite."

However, despite such high praise and the Pirates' investment, Skenes was sent down to the minors. General manager Ben Cherington explained the move was all about Skenes' long-term development. "He's checked all of the boxes we aimed for him to check during the 2023 season," he said in a statement, per CBS Sports. "The goal now is to focus on a complete off-season in preparation for his first full professional year in 2024."

Not surprisingly, Skenes quickly rose up the minor league ranks and started the 2024 season pitching for the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians. He easily dominated the competition with 45 strikeouts and a 0.99 ERA across 27.1 innings. On May 11, 2024, Skenes made his long-awaited MLB debut against the Chicago Cubs. Although he was a bit shaky and pitched less than five innings, the rookie put on a show with 17 pitches clocked at speeds of 100mph or more. Skenes brought his usual pragmatism to the post-game interview. "I have to get them out quicker, regardless if they're Major League hitters or not, I just have to get them out quicker," he said of his performance, per

Inside his supportive relationship with Olivia Dunne

Paul Skenes' time at LSU did more than help launch his professional baseball career. It was on the Baton Rouge campus where he met his current partner, gymnast and social media star, Olivia "Livvy" Dunne. Skenes told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that his best friend was dating Dunne's roommate at the time, and the rest is history. "Just a small-world type of thing," he said about getting together with Dunne in June 2023.

Since then, Dunne has become one of the budding star's biggest supporters. She's a regular at her beau's baseball games and, as he told MLB Network, she played a big role in the lead-up to his May 2024 Major League debut. "She's helped me in a lot of ways in terms of managing all the hype I guess, if you will, and how to manage everything that goes around being a pro athlete because she's kinda lived it," he explained. "It's been great."

Dunne credits their personality differences for helping keep their relationship strong. "He's pretty level-headed all the time, that's what I love about him," she told ESPN. "I have a crazy lifestyle and things get thrown my way all the time [...] and he's very level and I just think it's a very good match."

Skenes remains a staunch advocate for military members and their families

Paul Skenes has made it clear that he hopes to return to the military one day and his mentors have no doubt he'll make that happen. "Once his days playing professional sports are over, he wants the opportunity to come back and serve," his former Air Force Academy coach, Mike Kazlausky, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2024. "Wearing basically 'USA' across your front — meaning our nation's uniform — is far more important to Paul Skenes than wearing a Pirates uniform."

These aren't just words from Kazlausky. Skenes has used his fame to fundraise and advocate for veterans and their families since college. As an ambassador for True Victory, a sportswear company founded by veterans and first responders, Skenes collaborated with the brand to create the True Victory PS20 NIL Collection. "I am extremely appreciative of the people who serve and have served in our military, and I want to support them in any way possible," he said of the partnership. 

According to his ambassador page, a portion of each sale will go to support Folds of Honor, a non-profit that gives scholarships to spouses and children of fallen and disabled servicemen and women. Folds of Honor holds a special place in Skenes' heart as he has raised over $60,000 for the organization since 2023.