Posted at 10:07 AM on August 3, 2005
by David Zingler
There is no denying that the Twins 2003 trade of Bobby Kielty for Shannon Stewart was one of the great moves in the franchise's history. Toronto paid Stewart's salary for the remainder of the season and gave the Twins a solid pitching prospect in lefty Dave Gassner for Kielty, who struggled and was shipped to Oakland for Ted Lilly following the season.
That being said, the Twins could use a couple of Bobby Kielty-type players in their lineup. "(On-base-percentage was) not really an emphasis," Kielty said of his time in the Twins organization. "When I was with the Twins, it was more of a free swinging club...I was of a different mold than most of the Twins players."
"I talked to Billy (Beane) about the game," the red-headed outfielder continued, "he believes you need three or four guys in the line-up that can work pitcher, draw a walk and wear down a pitcher because if you've got a lot of free swingers out there, a lot of times the pitcher doesn't have to work."
Kielty, who went undrafted out of college, was also quick to point out his gratitude to the organization that gave him a shot, "I loved playing in Minnesota, (the Twins) are a great team to play for," he commented. "They gave me a great opportunity to start my big league career...I have nothing but good things to say about their organization, that's for sure."
It has hardly been smooth sailing for the 29-year-old since he left the Twin Cities over two years ago. Kielty hit .233 in 62 games with Blue Jays in 2003 and slumped to a .214 mark in 238 at bats last year, his first with Oakland.
"When you are struggling, every at bat you are just praying for a hit because hits aren't coming -- they just aren't coming," he said of his nightmare 2004 season. "When you go through a long stretch (like that) every at bat seems like it is done and gone with in a matter of seconds and you are coming back to the dugout wondering what happened."
Kielty entered this season knowing he had to turn things around, or else. "(I felt) that if this year didn't go well, it would have been really bad for my career," he explained. "I felt last year was bad for my career, but Billy Beane showed confidence in me, signed back and gave me an opportunity. After a year like that, most guys would probably give up on me, but he helped me out a lot and gave me an opportunity. I feel like I have done a lot better than expected (this year) and put my two cents in for the team."
So far this year he?s hit .280/.373/.416 for the Wild Card leading Athletics and more importantly, is having fun again. "We are kickin' butt," the five year veteran joked. "Everybody is having fun -- we laugh throughout the whole (pre-game) stretches, talking smack, ripping each other. It has been like that everyday for the past two months -- a lot of laughter in the clubhouse and a lot of laughter in the dugout."
While he would like to credit hard work, patience and confidence for his personal turnaround, I would like to think his Carrot Top-like afro has something to do with it.
"Terry (Ryan) just came up to me and said, 'I have to shake your hand because I have never seen your hair like that before; I have to get a close up of it,'" Kielty, who sported near bald buzz cut in his Twins days, recalled.
When asked about grooming techniques he responded, "I just let it go...it definitely does get out of control."
That sounds eerily like the approach many Twins players take in the batters box.
Dave Gassner is 27 years old now. He's not much of a prospect at 27.