Most people can only see the positive side of somebody having a relative who has already become renowned in the field that they are pursuing. But, for every Ken Griffey, Jr., there is a Craig Griffey. The pressure to live up to expectations and to legacies must be enormous. I got a first-hand taste of that this past week when I met Colin Kaline, the grandson of baseball Hall of Famer Al Kaline.
Although I was only with Colin one-on-one for a few minutes, it was enough to see what he must deal with on a daily basis. I met him prior to one of his games and while I was preparing to interview him, several people came up and started talking with him. Not one of those people ever asked Colin how he was or about his own baseball experience. Everyone asked questions about Al. What’s Al up to these days? Think Al would sign an autograph for me? Al help you get drafted by the Tigers? By the time I was ready to start my interview, I have to say that I felt glad I was able to intervene on the thoughtless peppering he was getting.
In speaking with Colin Kaline I found a guy who is his own player. He is not trying to emulate anyone or be like his grandfather. He plays baseball because he likes the game, and his dream to reach the Major Leagues is like everyone else he plays with. As he was drafted in the 26th round by the Detroit Tigers, his path to reach that goal will be as tough as any, but he definitely has the spark to make it happen.
My quick scouting report of Colin is that he is a smallish second baseman, listed at 5-10 and 150 pounds. Size is no longer as important as it used to be, as guys like Dustin Pedroia and Prince Fielder have proven that production comes in many heights and weights. I was able to see Colin warming up and playing over the course of a few days, so my analysis is purely observational. I don’t see that he will ever be a power hitter, but he has some speed, and is what I like to call a real “grinder” on the field. There is always a guy who ends up with dirt all over his uniform by the end of the first few innings of a game, and Colin seems like that type. More importantly, it was obvious from what I saw that he was a leader on his current team, the Connecticut Tigers. I will be curious to see how he is doing when he comes back to Vermont to play in August.
It is impossible to say right now how far Colin Kaline will go in professional ball. What I can say is that however far that might be, it will be on his own terms and not because he might be the next Al Kaline. I love seeing hard working guys like him, because they get the most out of their talent and are the most likely to advance. I would advise everybody to keep tabs on him because you might be seeing him in the Major Leagues one of these days.
Interview with Colin Kaline:
Did you have a favorite player or team growing up?: The Tigers were always my favorite team growing up. Being from northwest Detroit and growing up watching them on tv and going to those games, so it was pretty special being picked by them after them being my favorite team when I was a kid.
Has your grandfather Al given you a lot of instruction as you have progressed as a player?: He’s given me some instruction. He’s very hands off until I come to him for help. He’s always been very clear that its my decision and he doesn’t want to be the reason that I am doing anything.
Is there a particular player you model your game after?: Not a particular player, but there is a type of player I envision myself being. A hardworking guy that doesn’t let people outwork me and stuff like that.
What was the draft process like?: You know, I had no expectations going into the draft. Being a senior and graduating, I really had no idea of where I would go. I hoped someone would give me a chance. A couple of organizations had been in contact throughout the school year and the Tigers ended up taking me, so that was a thrill.
Where did you play in college?: Florida Southern College.
How was your college playing experience?: That was great. Actually, the first Tigers game of the year is an exhibition game against Florida Southern, so I got to play against them for four years.
If everything goes as planned, how long do you hope it will be before you make it to the Big Leagues with the Tigers?: I really don’t have an amount. I’m just going to take the process as it goes and enjoy every level and enjoy every step. Just do my best to keep improving and keep moving up.