The Oakland A’s added significant speed to their minor league system during the 2017 draft. Perhaps none of those new speedsters is faster than Kevin Merrell, the A’s second-overall pick in 2017. Merrell was considered one of the fastest college players available in the 2017 draft.
In three seasons with the University of South Florida, Merrell swiped 56 bases in 67 chances. He has been slowed a bit as a pro by a nagging Achilles injury, but Merrell still has seven stolen bases in 24 games for the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters. Merrell has done damage at the plate, as well. He is currently batting .295/.327/.379.
Donald Moore spoke with Merrell last week about his first pro season thus far.
Donald Moore: Hi, Kevin, how is everything going for you so far this season?
Kevin Merrell: It’s been a blast. I mean dream come true for me to play this game of professional baseball. You think about this as a kid, so it’s cool to be here. It’s such a blessing, such a gift, just really thankful and trying to make the most of it.
DM: What are your goals for this year?
KM: Well, we are in first place right now, and I have never won a ring before, so it could be sweet to win the New York-Penn. It’s the main goal right now.
DM: What do you feel is your greatest strength as a ballplayer?
KM: My speed. God gave me the gift of speed, so that would probably be my biggest strength as a ball player.
DM: What would you’d like to improve on?
KM: There are several things. Pretty much everything , but adding more power and just getting more comfortable at shortstop.
DM: How are you adjusting to professional baseball?
KM: It’s definitely an adjustment. I have never been away from home for very long. I went to college right next to my hometown, so I have always been around the Tampa area. I guess the biggest adjustment has been being away from home, first of all, and second of all, the players are a lot better [in pro ball]. The pitching is a lot different than college, so you don’t get any easy weekday pitchers like you do in college. It’s been fun and a challenge, but I think I’m adjusting well so far.
DM: What do you like best about being a pro athlete?
KM: I don’t know. It’s just a cool thing to get paid for a sport that you grew up playing since you could walk. That is definitely a gift and a blessing to be thankful for.
DM: Any pregame routines?
KM: I warm up and go to work. Pregame is where you get all your practice in and work in and get ready for the game, so there’s nothing in particular that I do. I take batting practice, take grounders and get mentally prepared for the game, but I have no pregame superstitions like Wade Boggs or anything yet.
DM: Any hobbies?
KM: Yup. I love to fish, love to golf. I grew up on a lake back home, so those two things would probably be my two favorite hobbies.
DM: Favorite baseball team growing up?
KM: The Rays. Grew up in Tampa, so I’m a big Rays fan and they are doing well this year, but I’m an A’s fan now.
DM: If there is one person who taught you the most about baseball, who would that be?
KM: That’s an easy one. That would definitely be my dad. We had a cage in my yard when I was eight or nine years old. We’d always go out there and hit. He played college baseball at Florida Southern, so he has definitely had the biggest impact on me.
DM: Craziest thing you have ever seen on a baseball diamond?
KM: Well, it happened here, one of our first or second games being in the pros. The dugout here is close to the batter’s box and the bat boy was standing right on the stairs and he got drilled by a foul ball. He ended up going to the hospital. That is the craziest thing I have ever saw so far on the field.
DM: Any off-season plans?
KM: No, not really. Just kind of take a break. It’s been a long season, so take a break for a week or two and then start working out and physically get ready for the next season.
DM: I want to thank you for your time and it was a pleasure to meet you and the best of luck to you.
KM: Thank you and God Bless you.
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