#MLBPlayers411 | Kevin Kiermaier
From a 31st-round pick in 2010 to one of the top defensive players in the game, Kevin Kiermaier has become a mainstay in center field for the Rays.
“I was the 941st pick, and I'll never forget that,” Kiermaier told The New York Times. “It definitely feels good to sit here and be an everyday big league player, because you don't see it too often. But with my work ethic and everything I've done to get to this point, I'm very proud of how far I've come.”
The Fort Wayne, Ind. native was a multi-sport athlete in high school – winning the state baseball championship his senior year – and was recruited to play football at Purdue University. He opted to play collegiate baseball at Parkland College, where, as a freshman, he played on its National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) championship team and was a two-time NJCAA All-American.
Kiermaier has wowed the Tampa faithful with his defense in a home ballpark known for quirky outfield characteristics – the light color of the Tropicana Field roof and the many catwalks that surround the top of the stadium.
Since he began playing every day in 2014, Kiermaier leads major-league outfielders in defensive runs saved with 96 – 13 more than the second-highest fielder, Jason Heyward.
The athletic 27-year old's fielding prowess is so valuable that, according to Baseball Reference, he ranks ninth in wins above replacement (WAR) among all position players since 2014, as well. Names below the lesser-known Kiermaier on the list include superstars like Giancarlo Stanton, Bryce Harper and Joey Votto.
In winning his second straight Gold Glove in 2016, Kiermaier joined Evan Longoria as the only two Rays players in franchise history to accomplish the feat. In 2015, Kiermaier also nabbed the AL's Platinum Glove, given annually to the best overall fielder in each league.
“It's just the amount of ground he covers,” Rays Manager Kevin Cash told The Times. “He allows us to do some unique things in the outfield. He takes away doubles, triples, gap shots. And then you factor in his arm. He's got the best arm in baseball from a center-field aspect. You generally don't see that combination of a center fielder with that strong an arm. He's got the arm of a right fielder playing center.”
This year, Kiermaier is batting .282 – nearly 20 points higher than any of his previous three seasons – with 11 home runs and 34 RBIs despite an extended stay (June 9-Aug. 18) on the disabled list after fracturing a hip in a feet-first slide into first base.
Since returning from the 60-day disabled list, Kiermaier has hit .360 with four home runs and 14 RBIs in 18 games.
"We're excited to have [Kiermaier] back," Cash told MLB.com after activating him. “"We all know the energy he provides on defense, at the plate, on the bases, and we're going to hope to feed off him to get us back going again."
Earlier this season, Kiermaier spent part of a day alongside a number of Tampa/St. Pete area high school students, who are members of the Action Team national youth volunteer program created by the Players Trust and Volunteers of America. Kevin, and former teammate Tim Beckham, participated in a baseball clinic for special needs youth hosted by the Action Team Captains. Portions of that clinic are featured in a public service announcement for the program, which debuted during the 2017 All-Star Game.
“We do what we do on the field, but we have a duty off the field as well,” Kiermaier said in the PSA.
Check out the Action Team PSA here.
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