Globe Life Park in Arlington will always be a special place for Kevin Kiermaier because it’s where he made his big-league debut. On Sept. 30, 2013, the Fort Wayne native debuted as a defensive replacement for Tampa Bay as the Rays beat Texas in the Game 163 tiebreaker to advance to the American League wild-card game at Cleveland a few days later.
Last week, Kiermaier, 24, returned with the Rays to Arlington for the first time since his debut.
This is where it all started and a really cool place, he said. It feels like yesterday we were here and seems we were just popping all the champagne celebrating, getting my first taste of postgame in the big leagues to see how everything works in the playoffs. It feels great to be back.
The Bishop Luers product started 2014 at Triple-A Durham but was promoted to the Rays on April 12. Through Sunday, he had played 75 games and was hitting .268 with nine home runs and 29 RBI.
Kiermaier, who has played right field and center field with the Rays, has made a great first impression on his new teammates and on manager Joe Maddon.
Overall, (I like) just everything – the way he plays, the effort, the intensity, the hustle. That is obviously really pleasing to the rest of the group. Beyond that, obviously he’s hit really well. There’s not a whole lot not to like, Maddon said.
Two words often used to describe Kiermaier are aggressive and fearless, two qualities on full display in every game he plays. Whether it’s in the field or running the bases, he plays with a reckless abandon, an approach he’s had for as long as he can remember and one that clearly works.
Yeah, that’s the way I’ve been my whole life. Sometimes it’s going to bite me in the butt, Kiermaier said. There’s a time and place for everything, to be aggressive. I’m just learning when the time is right to really charge on a ball or try to throw a guy out, certain things like that. I’m not going to hit every day, but you can always count on my speed and my defense to be there day in, day out. That’s something I take a lot of pride in. I want people to know that when they watch Kevin Kiermaier that he’s going to go all out and you don’t have to worry about him slacking off out there.
Maddon respects Kiermaier’s aggressiveness but is also working with him to make sure he knows there are proper times and situations to be aggressive.
He’s made some mistakes. He’s made more mental mistakes than anything, but some of those are mental mistakes of aggression if that makes any sense – overthrowing, throwing to the wrong base, just overzealousness, Maddon said. I’ll take that over a passive player. I’ll take that and tone him down a bit.
Kiermaier’s teammates have embraced him, but he still has dues to pay as a rookie, but no matter what those rookie rites of passage are, they’re something he willingly does.
When we went to Houston, me and a couple of guys had to wear a sombrero and these real colorful poncho- looking things with these huge mustaches that were so itchy. And we also had to carry water and drinks on the plane, he said. I’m carrying this boombox around for the plane. But if that’s the worst of my problems then I’ve got it pretty good.