A Lasting Impression
Feb. 14, 2011
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Tim Kiene can remember watching his first baseball game as a child.
He doesn't remember where he was, but he knows he was traveling with his grandfather and there was a college baseball game pitting Maryland against North Carolina on TV. As he watched, he listened intently to his grandfather talk about the Terrapins, and from that moment on Kiene knew he would play baseball at the University of Maryland.
"I loved the baseball that I saw and loved everything about Maryland," said Kiene. "I knew I wanted to come here and make a difference."
That memory, along with the Maryland coaching staff and the opportunity to play in the Atlantic Coast Conference, were the overriding factors that led Kiene to turn down a professional contract with the Washington Nationals to be a Terp instead.
Kiene, who attended Avon Old Farms High School, a prep school in Connecticut, was drafted by the Nationals in the 30th round in 2010, but turned them down for the chance to receive a good education and the opportunity to play college ball with the Terps.
"He's an academic-oriented kid," said head coach Erik Bakich. "He went to a private school up in Connecticut so I think for him education and getting a college degree was something very important for him and his family."
Besides the opportunity to earn a college education, Kiene was drawn to Maryland because of its team camaraderie and energetic coaching staff.
"I love the coaches," Kiene said. "I met them a few months ago and I've always wanted to play in the ACC. Eventually I want to play major league baseball, but playing for Maryland right now is the best time in my life. I have never actually been on a team like this, that's so close, and I feel like we're going to do big things this year."
Kiene helped lead his high school team, the Winged Beavers, to three Colonial League championships and a New England regional Championship. Bakich is hoping that Kiene can bring that attitude of winning to Maryland.
One of the many qualities that makes Kiene attractive to baseball coaches alike - he was also recruited by Duke, North Carolina and Wake Forest - is the fact that he is a left-handed hitter.
"There are not a lot of left-handed people in the country period. That's why left-handed pitchers and left-handed hitters are such a commodity," said Bakich. "So with Tim, who's 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, he's got some big time juice and power in his bat, which makes him more appealing at a professional level. Not only is he a big physical kid but he hits left-handed."
Kiene's ability to be a power hitter will lead him to fill either the fourth or fifth spot in this year's lineup, meaning he will be responsible for driving in runs, a responsibility that Kiene feels he is ready for.
"I've always wanted to be that type of guy. I grew up being a middle-of-the-order power hitter," he said. "I feel like I can be a better hitter than just a power guy. I keep my head at an even keel, so I don't get too excited about a big hit and when I strike out I don't get down on myself. I feel like I can stick to that responsibility and run with it."
Bakich already feels that Kiene can handle the responsibility of batting cleanup, something few freshmen have the ability to take on. But Kiene, who led his high school team in home runs, RBI and batting average as a junior and a senior, is a very talented hitter.
"The thing about him is that as strong and as powerful as he is, he's a good accomplished hitter," Bakich said. "He's got a good feel for the strike zone; he hits the ball to both sides of the field, where most freshmen are pull-oriented type hitters. He's got the ability to hit left-handed pitching as well as pull the ball."
For a college freshman, Kiene has already seen a multitude of successes and one of his biggest inspirations for his baseball career is his grandfather.
"He's been my coach for my entire life. He introduced me to the game; he gave me my first baseball glove," said Kiene. "He loves the game more than I have seen anybody love the game. When I have questions, I go to him. He gets me through a lot of things."
When Maryland plays its home opener on Feb. 23 against Navy, Kiene's grandfather will make the five-hour trip from Connecticut to sit in the stands and watch his grandson play ball.
"He always said I'd make him proud, but coming here and playing in this kind of environment is just a great thing," Kiene said. "He can't wait to come see every game and he'll be here watching in the stands."