EVERETT — In his mind, Patrick Kivlehan was always a baseball player.
The Everett AquaSox third baseman went to college to play football. He spent four years at Rutgers on the football field, roaming the secondary as a safety. His focus was on hitting opposing ball carriers rather than hitting baseballs.
But in the back of his mind baseball was always calling. Little did he realize how crazy his journey would become once he stepped back on the diamond.
In a matter of months, Kivlehan went from dealing with the prospect of an undistinguished collegiate athletic career ending to seeing a professional baseball career begin. And now he finds himself one of the Seattle Mariners’ most intriguing prospects in their minor-league system.
“It’s been quite a couple months,” Kivlehan said. “I don’t really know how to explain it. People always ask me what happened and I don’t know what to say. It’s just one of those surreal things.”
Kivlehan is one of the better prospects on Everett’s roster. At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and possessing great speed, Kivlehan brings an exciting physical profile to the table.
“He’s got a great body, he’s very toolsy in the fact he has power and can run,” Everett manager Rob Mummau said. “It’s just a case of getting him caught up to speed, not only knowing what to do but dealing with the speed of the game, because going from college to here is quite a challenge. But he’s done a very nice job and he adapted quick.”
It’s had to be a quick adaptation for Kivlehan, who hadn’t played baseball since the summer following his senior year of high school in 2008.
Kivlehan starred in both football and baseball during his time at St. Joseph’s High School near his home in West Nyack, N.Y. But there was never a question about what sport Kivlehan was going to play in college. His size and speed made him a natural football player.
Kivlehan played his full four seasons at Rutgers, spending his career as a back-up and special teams player. He’d cast glances toward the baseball field, but never gave in to those urges.
“I thought about it, but it would have been too tough,” Kivlehan said. “I wanted to see out my commitment with football because that’s what I went there to do.”
When Kivlehan completed his football eligibility in the fall, he decided it was time to give baseball a try at Rutgers.
“In my head I always told myself I was a baseball player,” Kivlehan said. “I had some buddies on the football team and I’d be like, ‘You know, I could still play baseball.’ They’d mess around and joke with me. Once I decided to play baseball, they were all ragging on me, but in a good way.”
Kivlehan had to undergo a formal tryout with the baseball team and earned a spot on the roster.
But Kivlehan turned out to be no ordinary walk-on. As the season progressed and Kivlehan reacquainted himself with baseball, he improved in leaps and bounds. By the time the season ended Kivlehan had won the Big East triple crown, batting .392 with 14 home runs and 50 RBI in 51 games. He spiked that with a team-leading 24 stolen bases.
“I was just going out there to have fun,” Kivlehan said. “I didn’t have any expectations to go play pro ball. Did I think in the back of my mind that it would be cool? Yeah, I thought I would want to do that if the possibility presented itself. But I didn’t go out there thinking I had to do this or that to get the scouts to look at me.”
The scouts couldn’t help noticing the new figure taking Big East baseball by storm. About halfway through the season Kivlehan began getting serious attention and started receiving letters from major league teams. When the amateur draft arrived the first week of June, Kivlehan was stunned to hear his name called in the fourth round.
The Mariners are hoping they found a diamond in the rough.
“I wouldn’t say he’s raw,” Mummau said. “Maybe he’s not quite as polished, but I wouldn’t put the raw label on him. He’s a football guy, so he has a lot of technical training in the football sense. From what I’ve seen so far, he’s got very good aptitude and picks things up quick.”
Kivlehan is still trying to find his comfort level in professional baseball. In his first 12 games with the Sox, he batted .239 and committed three errors.
“I can obviously get better,” Kivlehan said. There’s a ton of stuff I can get better at. I’m just learning the professional game. It’s a jump up from college. It took me time to adjust to the college game, it’s going to take some time to adjust to the pro game. But once I adjust and realize how the pro game works, I think I’ll be better.”
If past history is an indication, it’s only a matter of time.