Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
'New guy' finding niche
Orioles draftee Kimmel showing valuable versatility position-wise
During his first two weeks in the Winnipeg Goldeyes clubhouse, Sam Kimmel was the new guy and he was referred to as "new guy" by the rest of the Fish.
Well, he's glad that's over.
Technically speaking, however, Kimmel is still the newbie on the team with only 15 American Association games under his belt since joining the team to relieve an injured Ryan Pineda in mid-July, and while his batting numbers might not show signs of success, the 24-year-old is showing versatility on defence.
Kimmel was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft as a catcher, but a shoulder injury about two years ago forced him out of the catching position. The rookie from West Palm Beach, Fla., has proven to be a solid utility player for the Fish, seeing time as an outfielder and in the infield. He takes pride in his ability to play anywhere.
"I didn't get a lot of at-bats and playing time this year, so I just wanted a place to play," said Kimmel on the decision to join the club after playing on three different Class A affiliate teams earlier this year. "This is a good team, I'm glad to be here."
Being a young rookie in independent professional baseball is not easy when the league is comprised of experienced players who have played at every level of baseball you can think of, including the major leagues. And Kimmel, who is the youngest player on the team not in the bullpen, has certainly felt the pressure at the plate, having gone seven straight games without a hit in his first handful of games in a Goldeyes uniform.
He said his coaches and teammates have done a good job keeping him confident during his early hitting woes.
"The guys are more experienced here, when they have a couple bad games, they're not worried about it because they're confident in themselves," Kimmel said. "And the pitchers -- some of them might not throw as hard -- but they pitch, they don't throw, they actually know what they're doing.
"It's more of a mental thing with me, I'm just trying to stay positive and just stay confident and trust myself."
Kimmel played solid in Friday's close 6-5 loss to the league-leading Wichita Wingnuts, picking up a big hit and tracking the ball well in the outfield. Manager Rick Forney is not ready to count out his player just yet because it's not like he's getting struck out at every at-bat.
"I mean he's an OK player, he's got a patient approach at the plate," Forney said. "He just got into a little spell where he wasn't able to get anything to fall for him. He was making some contact, just nothing was happening for him. But he's got a nice, quiet professional approach, he's a good base-runner. He's got some good versatility, he can play multiple positions."
As far as nicknames go, Kimmel said the team has a couple of new ones for him.
"I've upgraded," he said. "To Sam or Jimmy Kimmel."
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 10, 2014 B6
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