Tuesday, June 10. 2010. It was supposed to be one of the best days of Kevin Kiermaier’s life.
It was the second day of the MLB Draft, when rounds 2-30 were being held. “I had two outstanding years in college and everyone was telling me I would probably go between the 8th and 15th round,” Kevin explained. “So I had everyone come over, my friends and family, and we were all waiting for my name to be called.”
But the night didn’t go as planned. “So the 8th round passes… the 10th… the 15th… nothing. I thought ‘Okay, not where I want to be but it’s alright,’ Kevin said. “But then we get to the 20th round… 25th… 30th… and my name never got called.”
It was an excruciating wait.
“I was hurt. This was supposed to be my time to sign with a professional team. This was the day that my dreams were going to become a reality. But instead, all my buddies had to leave.”
After the pain and heartbreak of Day 2, Day 3 was significantly better. “Once the draft resumed that next morning, sure enough, I got drafted by Tampa Bay in the first round of that next day,” Kevin said.
In total, 940 players were drafted ahead of him. “I was bitter at first because I knew that I was so much better than the 941st pick,” he said. But Kevin didn’t hang his head for too long. He knew that less than 7% of those drafted even after the 21st round make it to the pros, but he just used that as motivation.
“Right away, from my rookie season in the minors, I showed everyone that I wasn’t your average 31st rounder. I focused on making a good impression but also made sure to improve every year.”
He made massive improvements during every season and the Tampa Bay organization quickly took notice. By 2013, Kiermaier was named the MVP of Tampa Bay’s Class AA team, the Montgomery Biscuits and was later called up to the majors later that year. He made his debut during the 163rd game of the season—a wild card tie-breaker which he helped them win.
Ever since then, Kevin has been a fixture in the Rays lineup and it’s easy to see why. While his offense has improved every year, his defensive skills in centerfield are from another planet. There’s a reason he has won two straight Gold Glove awards and a 2015 Platinum Glove award. It seems like every game he’s making another incredible diving catch or gunning down a speedy baserunner trying to get home. And he’s got a cannon of an arm. During 2015, there were 36 throws from the outfield that reached a speed of 100 MPH. Kevin had 9 of them.
His fielding skills are no accident. Kevin takes pride in his unique talents and won’t settle for anything less than greatness. “When it comes to defense, I’m trying to be a special player,” Kevin explained. “I’m trying to be the best and that’s motivates me. I’ve got to work hard to leave a legacy.”
So from 941st pick to #1 AL center fielder, the 26-year old has already proved all of those teams that overlooked him back in 2010 wrong. But that’s only the first chapter of Kevin’s story.
“I’m just trying to write my own little book as far as my career goes. I’ve beaten a lot of odds to get to this point and I can’t wait to see what happens from here on out.”
Neither can we.
Kevin’s rare drive and skills make him stand out during every inning on the diamond. How do you play the game your way? Let us know on TW or IG by tagging us and using #Prepare4Greatness. Learn more about him in our latest Eastbay catalog.