CEDAR RAPIDS – Jason Kanzler plays baseball as if it’s football. Sometimes that can be good, sometimes not.
The Cedar Rapids Kernels center fielder knows that.
“I like playing like that in the outfield because I think you need that attitude if you’re an up-the-middle type guy,” said Kanzler, who keyed a 5-2 victory Wednesday night over Wisconsin at Veterans Memorial Stadium. “You want the ball to be hit to you, and you want to be super aggressive.
“But at the plate, I definitely have to check myself because that approach doesn’t work in pro ball. You have to be extremely relaxed, sort of the opposite of the way you play defense. It’s a learning experience. I’m trying to learn how to play both sides of the game.”
Kanzler had an RBI triple and run-scoring double as Cedar Rapids (25-28) won for the third time in four games. He has his batting average up over the .300 mark (at .303), seemingly finding a home in the middle of the order.
He was the Kernels’ leadoff hitter when he arrived in town from Minnesota Twins extended spring training in mid-April, but that goes back to the super aggressive thing. Leadoff guys need to take pitches and work counts, not exactly what Kanzler is about.
Though, again, he’s trying to learn. Since returning from a concussion week ago, he’s 12 for 33 with three home runs and nine RBIs.
“Calm down, trust your body,” he said. “Be smooth and be quiet. Trust your hands. Let the natural ability come out. Don’t try and force anything.”
“He’s a guy that when he first came here, you try and get him to trust his abilities,” said Kernels Manager Jake Mauer. “A lot of times guys try to go 500 miles per hour. You’ve just got to get them to believe what they can do is pretty good. He’s definitely one of those guys. He plays the game hard, probably has that football mentality, in which he’s going to fly all over the place. But you’ve got to be able to do it under control, and that’s what he’s been doing.”
This was an important rebound game for Kernels starting pitcher Aaron Slegers (5-2), who gave up just three hits and a run in six innings. The 6-foot-10 righty had experienced his first significant professional bump in the road, getting lit up for 32 hits and 20 earned runs over 14.2 innings in his previous three starts.
Mauer said the former University of Indiana right-hander’s effectiveness stemmed from the mind as much as the arm.
“He was just more aggressive overall,” Mauer said. “He had two or three rough starts there where he was kind of picking at the (strike) zone. Tonight he pitched inside a little bit, was more aggressive. He threw the ball up, up and out of the zone with two strikes and got some swings. He was able to go at people, and I think that the was biggest difference.”
The teams play again Thursday night at 6:35. Those observing Wednesday night included Minnesota Twins General Manager Terry Ryan.
The 60-year-old Ryan was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in his neck in February, was treated with radiation and missed all of spring training.
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