Photo by Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
The Arizona State baseball program has long produced Major League caliber players. From Reggie Jackson and Barry Bonds to Ike Davis and Brett Wallace, many former Sun Devils have taken their talents to the next level.
In 2011, infielder Jason Kipnis is the latest former Sun Devil to be on the verge of big league success.
Kipnis was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the second round of the 2009 amateur draft. He has since ascended the minor league ranks and is a member of the Triple-A Columbus squad.
The 2011 campaign has been a successful one for Kipnis. The second baseman is hitting .295 with 11 homers, 13 doubles and 46 RBI. While his numbers are undoubtedly impressive, Kipnis is thrilled to be improving in other aspects of his game.
“When I reflect on how my days went, I take a lot of positives out of it,” Kipnis said. “It could be an 0 for 4 day, but you still find some positives out of it. So, I’m maturing that way. I couldn’t ask for this year to be going any better right now.”
His standout performance earned him a trip to the Sunday’s XM All-Star Futures game at Chase Field.
Kipnis started the contest at second base and was penciled in the leadoff spot by USA skipper Mike Piazza. He immediately provided some pop at the plate by homering to lead off the bottom of the first inning.
“Definitely wasn’t expecting that,” Kipnis said. “Definitely wasn’t even trying to hit one, just trying to make solid contact, trying to put the ball in play in a game like this.”
After jogging around the bases on his home run trot, Kipnis flashed the Sun Devil pitchfork to some fans as he crossed home plate.
“That was not planned at all either, ” Kipnis said. “I heard them coming around third base. They got louder and louder, and I mean it’s cool. I haven’t seen a bunch of them in a long time so it was really nice to see them again.”
The opportunity to compete with and against many of baseball’s top prospects was thrilling enough, but the fact that the game was in Arizona made it even more special.
“This is an awesome thing to be a part of,” Kipnis said. “Not too many people get to experience this. It’s nothing but excitement right now, but then to be in Arizona with all the guys at ASU and the people I still know around here coming out for the game, I consider myself very lucky to be having this opportunity.”
Although his time in the Valley of the Sun is limited, Kipnis has been in contact with many supporters, friends and old acquaintances.
“I got a bunch of texts saying we’ll be there, and we’ll be cheering for you,” Kipnis said. “I said, ‘make sure you guys say hi or wave to me when I’m on the field.’ I don’t know how much time I’ll have, but I’m hoping to be able to meet and greet with a bunch of them because I’ve haven’t seen them in awhile.”
As a Sun Devil, Kipnis reeled in Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year honors in 2008. He posted a red-hot .371 average to go with 14 long balls and 73 RBI.
Kipnis was a regular in the Sun Devil starting lineup as he started all 62 games. His incredible play also earned him First Team All-Pac recognition, First Team All West Region by the ABCA and third team All-American honors.
Now several years removed from his ASU days, Kipnis reflects on his collegiate career with pride.
“Just being part of that tradition at ASU,” Kipnis said, “that was something really special to me, and something I didn’t really know too much about until afterward. After you leave you see just how many people go on and have careers in this game. Whether it’s Ike [Davis], Brett Wallace, [Mike] Leake, all those guys already up there. I’m hoping to join them sometime.”