By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — When Patrick Kivlehan was named the Northwest League’s Most Valuable Player, the Everett AquaSox third baseman was caught by surprise.
Not just because he didn’t think he’d win the award, but also because he wasn’t even aware the award existed.
“I knew there was an all-star team, but I didn’t know there would be an MVP,” Kivlehan said Tuesday. “I found out I was on the all-star team, and then I found out I won the MVP, so it was an honor.”
Kivlehan took the league’s top honor after an impressive season with the bat. The 22-year-old from West Nyack, N.Y., who was the Seattle Mariners’ fourth-round pick in this year’s amateur draft out of Rutgers University, batted .301 with 12 home runs and 52 RBI in 72 games. He tied for the league lead in homers with teammate Taylor Ard, finished tied for second in RBI, and was third in batting. He also stole 14 bases while being caught just once.
Kivlehan’s all-around contributions helped him edge a tightly-contested field that included Ard and Boise teammates Stephen Bruno and Gioskar Amaya.
“It’s pretty cool,” Kivlehan said. “I didn’t think I’d win it. I knew I had some good numbers, but I knew some other people had higher averages and there were couple guys around the same with RBI and pop.”
What makes Kivlehan’s MVP award even more impressive are his unique circumstances. He was a football player in college who hadn’t played baseball in four years before turning out for Rutgers this spring as a senior.
“Obviously I hadn’t played baseball in a while, so I had to find out who I am again on the baseball field,” Kivlehan said.
While Kivlehan earned the league’s biggest honor, he also knows he still has things to work on. Despite his offensive exploits he led the league in strikeouts with 93.
“The season’s kind of gone well,” Kivlehan said. “There’s some things I’m happy about and some things I’m not happy about. There’s obviously some things I need to improve for next year.
“I hit the ball well for average and power, so that was one thing I was happy with,” Kivlehan added. “My fielding, it was good but there are other things I can work on. And obviously I struck out a little too much this year.”
Nevertheless, with his 2012 season Kivlehan put himself on the Mariners’ prospect map.
When the Northwest League switched to the split-season format two seasons ago, increasing the number of playoff teams from two to four, it was designed to give more teams a taste of the postseason.
There was one potential glitch in the new system. While the first-half and second-half division winners earned playoff spots, it was possible the team with the league’s best overall record would miss out, if that team happened to get beat out in each half.
Well, that scenario happened this year. The Eugene Emeralds had the league’s best overall record at 47-29, one game better than West Division rivals Everett and Vancouver. However, Everett had the best record during the first half and Vancouver had the best record during the second half, leaving Eugene out in the cold.