Rays Kevin Kiermaier Hopes His Brand Of Hustle Is Contagious
Kiermaier Establishing Himself As A Leader By Example
Kevin Kiermaier has established a brand for himself as someone who will take advantage of every opportunity given to him on the baseball diamond. Maybe he is still playing with a chip on his shoulder after not being drafted until the 31st round. Maybe he is intent on proving the prospect gurus who never ranked him on any of their top 100 lists wrong.
Kiermaier doesn’t just hustle for himself he is open to the notion that he hopes it affects his teammates. “I want them to see how I play and come off contagiously.” Kiermaier said. “I guess you can call it playing with my hair on fire but it’s the only way I know, just 100 percent, all out. I look like an idiot sometimes but for the most part, I try to be under control with everything and know when to push and when not to.”
His energy was felt in a big way right out of the chute against the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday evening. Replacing Desmond Jennings in center field and at the leadoff spot he sent a single into right center field. Taking nothing for granted he hustled out of the box and when he noticed that right fielder Anthony Gose casual pace toward the ball he took off and turned the single into a double. “Once I got to first base I’d seen he (Gose) still had some space to the ball and I liked my chances of getting to second on that.” Kiermaier said. “For me to go in there as a hustle double to start the game off, I just wanted to spark us early and as often as possible.”
His legs and determination paid off as Ben Zobrist sent a fly ball to center fielder Colby Rasmus. Once again he challenged an outfielder and tagged up making it into third base with only one out and came in to score on a sacrifice fly by Matt Joyce.
Overall, Kiermaier reached base four times going 3 for 4 with two runs scored, three runs driven in, and a walk. His double to lead off the game gives him 22 extra-base hits in his first 48 games which ties the franchise record set by Jorge Cantu back in 2004.
He delivered a 2-RBI single off J.A. Happ in the Rays six run outburst in the sixth inning to give him 24 RBI on the year (11 in the last 7 games). His 24 RBI amasssed in just 47 games match the output of Ben Zobrist who has played in 82 games and exceeds Yunel Escobar who has played in 79 games.
The hit off Happ continued his hot pace against left handed pitching where he is batting .286 (6 for 21) against them after starting the year .111 (2 for 18).
Joe Maddon would like more players to play like Kiermaier but was quick to note that, “I think the whole industry would like to see more players play like Kiermaier’s playing.”
Hear the rest of the interview: