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In the Spotlight - Keith Ginter

By Jason Blasco

It was early in Houston Astros second base prospect Keith Ginter's professional career, in the New York-Penn league in Auburn. He was feeling the heat of the tremendous pressure that many professional players go through early in their career. In his first 13 at bats, the 10th round pick went 0-13 in 1998. That is when the hitting coach pulled him aside, gave him tips to help him change the angle of his bat and other minor adjustments. Ginter says, "The best thing the hitting instructor told me to do was relax, because I was very nervous in my first professional games."

These minor adjustments really helped Keith Ginter out. These tips helped him become one of the hottest hitters in minor league baseball today, and it turned his career around. He became a hitting machine and put together a terrific first season. In Auburn that year, he went on to hit .315, with eight homeruns, 41 RBI, and 22 doubles. He also tied for the league lead in runs scored. These outstanding stats helped Ginter earn the club MVP honors for Auburn.

What he was able to do at Auburn was just the tip of the iceberg. In 1999, his bat really helped put the venom in the Kissimmee Cobras, as they won the Florida State League championship. That became one of Ginter's most memorable moments in professional baseball to date. At Kissimmee, Ginter's statistics weren't as eye opening as they were in 1998 at Auburn, batting .263, with 13 homeruns, 15 doubles, and 46 RBI. But according to Ginter, "That is one of the toughest things about professional baseball, as you progress to each level, the pitching gets a little bit tougher and you have to make more adjustments."

Ginter has always felt he has what it takes to get to the major league level, and his work ethic is a big part of why he has been so successful this season. A typical day of professional baseball for Keith starts at about 11 a.m., when he goes to the gym, works out, and does his stretching exercises and throwing exercises. Then he goes to batting practice, plays the game, gets up and does it all over again the next day. In the off-season, he lifts weights about 6 or 7 times a week, and does different running regimens to help him maintain the strength that he requires to give his opponents nightmares.

It wasn't until the beginning of the 2000 season that Keith Ginter really took the baseball world by storm and let everyone know that he has arrived. Coming into this season, he really has given the fans at the new Dell Diamond a reason to come to the ballpark, knowing that they may be in the presence of a future major league All-Star. He has been completely dominating the Texas League this season. Ginter's statistics are something that many players would kill for at the Double-A level: .350 average, 18 doubles, 18 homeruns. 65 RBI. These great stats helped him earn Double-A All-Star honors. Ginter describes his Double-A All-Star experiences "as an honor, and even though it was a longer road trip than usual, it was so fun that you can't complain."

It is as if his bat is a persistent whirlwind of power that has given pitchers nightmares, and created a storm of attention from the baseball world. Now it is even harder not to recognize the 5-foot-10, 190-pound new wave second baseman who can hit for power and average, has devastating speed with which he can easily turn a single into a double, and has improving defense. He has caught the attention of Astros assistant general manager Tim Purpura. Purpura told Baseball America, "He has really become a complete player. He plays hard. He has good range. He dives for balls. Offensively, he's done everything. He hits for an average and hits for power."

Success at a high level isn't new to Ginter though. At Texas Tech, he also excelled at baseball. In his senior season, when he was a consensus All-American second baseman, Ginter put up numbers very similar to what he is doing with the Round Rock Express. In his junior year at Texas Tech, he put up phenomenal numbers, including a .426 average, 17 homeruns, 77 RBI, and 29 stolen bases. Although the scouts didn't look at him as much because he made 16 errors, he continues to improve. Ginter says, "One big difference between college and the pros is, in the pros you have 140 games. The level of talent is different also."

Perhaps it has been Ginter's natural athletic ability that has helped him excel in the enormous pool of talent that is the minor leagues. In high school he did very well in football, but baseball was always his main focus. He started playing baseball at the age of seven, and that seems to be what he has always wanted to do, as he has worked hard by practicing three hours a day, hoping to one day make to the major leagues. Now with his career in high gear, one of the hottest minor leaguers plays and waits for the call that every player waits for, their first big league call up. With the Astros struggling this year, the 24-year-old may get a chance this season to come up and play in the major leagues.

I would like to thank Ryan Gleichowski for setting up this interview, and Keith Ginter for answering all my questions.


 

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