A key component of the Tampa Bay Rays’ success this season could depend on the health of their team leader, center fielder Kevin Kiermaier.
He will play in the Rays’ first spring training game completely healthy on Friday.
He told News Channel 8 Sports’ Gabrielle Shirley his goal is to remain healthy for the duration of the season.
The goal might be difficult for Kiermaier to accomplish considering he has dealt with major injuries for the past three years.
He is known for making magical catches in the outfield, robbing hitters of one, two, or three bases. He continuously pushes the limits of what is humanly possible.
Why does he do it?
“I care,” said Kiermaier. “I care as much as anyone out there on that field. If I did not care,I would probably play at a much slower pace but I could not go to sleep tonight knowing that I didn’t give it my all.”
His fearless style does not necessarily result in injuries but it certainly does not prevent him from getting hurt.
“When I see fans out,” Kiermaier said. “Whether I am grocery shopping or at the mall or at a Lightning game, they say, ‘Hey! Will you stop diving? Stop diving!’ You want me to just stand up for 162 games? What player does that?”
Kiermaier does not fit in that category, especially this year. He is now playing the game for another KK, his son, Karter James Kiermaier.
“I want him to be proud of what his dad did. How he handled himself as an individual on and off the field,” Kiermaier said.
Kiermaier views spring training as a fresh start. He is healthy, the team is healthy and the expectations are high entering the regular season.
“We want to advance to the postseason. We want to win the postseason. If you don’t set that bar, why do we come out here?”