Rays' Kevin Kiermaier thrilled to get first big-league callup

Kevin Kiermaier can't hide his excitement as he joins the Rays.
Kevin Kiermaier, a former 31st-round draft pick, is considered a stellar outfielder.
Kevin Kiermaier, a former 31st-round draft pick, is considered a stellar outfielder.
Published October 1 2013
Updated October 1 2013

ARLINGTON, Texas — Outfielder Kevin Kiermaier felt pretty good about his minor-league season after starring at Double-A Montgomery and advancing for the first time to Triple-A Durham.

He was down from his Fort Wayne, Ind., home for a hitting camp at the Rays training facility in Port Charlotte last week when team officials told him Friday that with centerfielder Desmond Jennings limited by a strained hamstring, they wanted him to stick around and keep working out.

Then Sunday night, while he was watching Breaking Bad, he got a call from minor-league official Jeff McLerran with breaking news: He was being flown to Texas with the possibility of joining the team.

"I was like, 'Oh my gosh, this is nuts,' " Kiermaier, 23, said. "I was so caught up in the moment."

Being driven to Tampa airport by an intern Monday morning was cool, and his first experience flying first class was memorable. But the biggest thrill came Monday afternoon when he was told he had been added to the 40- and 25-man rosters to add late-inning defense, had a jersey (No. 41) and was sharing a locker with Wil Myers in the cramped Ballpark in Arlington clubhouse.

To top it off, he made his major-league debut in centerfield in the ninth inning.

"He is as good of a defender as there is in professional baseball in our opinion," Rays executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "He is really gifted in the outfield and also has a tremendous arm. We felt he has a chance to be a real weapon for us late in the game."

For a 31st-round pick in 2010 who worked his way up to being named the organization's best defensive player and Biscuits MVP, it was quite an achievement.

"I felt like if I played well they were going to have to make a decision on me sooner or later, and today was the day, Sept. 30, 2013," he said. "You can call it a Cinderella story, but there was a lot of hard work and I'm just thankful for the opportunity."