Simply Baseball Notebook straight from the source Fall 2001

  UP & DOWN: Bobby Kielty's 2001 Season

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The 2001 season has been an adventure for Minnesota Twins rookie outfielder Bobby Kielty. He made an impression on Twins management in spring training, hitting .407 and playing solid defense, but was still one of the final cuts and sent to AAA Edmonton. The switch hitting outfielder didn't stay north of the border long, he was called up on April 10 when CF Torii Hunter was placed on the disabled list. Although he played well in his initial 11 day stint in the big leagues, he was sent back to Edmonton when Hunter came off the DL so he could play everyday. After spending a couple months there, he was recalled in late July when the Twins dealt RF Matt Lawton to the Mets for pitcher Rick Reed. His second stay in the bigs didn't go as well, he struggled at the plate and was sent back to AAA on August 18 where he finished out the month. Currently, Kielty is back with the parent club after a September call up. I caught up with him and his wife Meredith after an afternoon workout.

"I came up, I went down, I came up - again, I went down - again," Kielty said of his wild season, "This is the third time coming up. It's been a long year in that sense because you're never set in a comfort zone."

"Going down is the tough part to take," he went on to say, "you've gotta find a way to grind it out down there (AAA) and put up numbers that put you in a position to come back up."

For most of us, this kind of life style is difficult to imagine. What if your job asked you to flip-flop living arrangements three times in six months? This is an ordinary part of life in major league baseball. The Kieltys' have taken a positive approach to this adventure, calling it "fun", even though they have spent much of the past year living in hotels. There are sacrifices to be made in all of this, for example is virtually impossible for Meredith to get a job because of all of the uncertainty.

Kielty's path to the major leagues is quite interesting, he graduated from Canyon Springs High School in Marino Valley, CA in 1994 as an Academic All American and signed with the University of Southern California (USC). He was redshirted his only year at USC and transferred to nearby Riverside Community College where he was the teams' co-MVP. In 1998 Kielty transferred to the University of Mississippi where he batted .307 with 16 home runs. Undrafted and undaunted Kielty joined the Cape Cod Summer League (the premier amateur summer league) where he hit .384 and was named the league's MVP.

The Twins signed Kielty as a free agent in February of 1999, and joined the teams single A affiliate, Quad Cities (Iowa) for the '99 season. His first professional season was a success - he hit .294 with 13 home runs and 12 steals for the River Bandits. He began the 2000 season in AA New Britain and was named an All Star, leading the Rock Cats in home runs. He was promoted to AAA Salt Lake late in the season where he also excelled.

Kielty is a versatile outfielder, able to play all three positions, but prefers center field where he has spent his minor league career. "I've always liked center, but Torii Hunter has that, so I've got to play where they need me," he said.

Currently the spot he has the best chance of getting playing time is the right field slot vacated when Matt Lawton was dealt. "I thought I would play a little more right or left when I went down to the minors, but I was playing center every day," he explained.

Kielty is now nearing the end of his first season with a taste of the major league experience, although it has been a strange, and at times difficult year, Kielty believes it has been a valuable learning experience. "Dealing with the mental aspects of being sent down - it's a humbling experience - when you go up to the big leagues there is so much more excitement, so much more atmosphere," he explained. "When you go down to the minors there isn't as much atmosphere - you really gotta work to get yourself up to play the game. You have to be able to go down there and perform right away to try to get back up."

Like most Americans, Kielty was stunned when he learned of the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington DC on September 11. He was sleeping in a hotel room in Detroit when a friend called and informed him. He turned on the TV and was in a state of "total shock." It was "like a movie - this is impossible," he said.

After the teams' series in Detroit was postponed and airports were shut down, the Twins had to take a bus back to Minneapolis. When asked if this reminded him of his AA days, Kielty responded, "(It was) still big league - we had three buses - in AA we only had one."

Presently Kielty hopes to finish this season strongly and make a positive impression on manager Tom Kelly in hopes of solidifying his status for next year. He plans to play winter ball in Puerto Rico to get ready for spring training. The Twins are very high on Kielty, Tom Kelly loves his defense and most in the organization believe he has excellent power potential. Look for Bobby Kielty to become the Twins regular right fielder in 2002, and to be a star in the years to come.

-David Zingler

-photo by Sebastian Vannavong

Kielty's page @ Baseball-Almanac.com

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