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Minor League Notebook : Reimer Wouldn’t Mind Making the Major Leagues After All

Unlike many aspiring baseball players, Kevin Reimer didn’t spend a great deal of his childhood dreaming of playing in the major leagues.

And though his father, Gerry, spent 11 years playing in the minors, Reimer rarely gave that a thought either.

How thoughts--and dreams--can change.

Reimer, who played at Orange Coast College and Cal State Fullerton, is becoming one of the top prospects in the Texas Ranger organization.

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As designated hitter and sometime outfielder for the double-A Tulsa Drillers, Reimer leads his team this season in hitting (.295), hits (129), doubles (27), home runs (18) and slugging percentage (.526).

He leads the Texas League with 10 triples, and has 68 RBIs, including 10 game-winners.

All this from a 24-year-old who never played Little League or high school ball.

Reimer was born in Macon, Ga., where his father was playing minor league ball, but grew up in Enderby, British Columbia, a town of about 1,500 people some 300 miles inland from Vancouver.

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There, Reimer played basketball, volleyball and hockey and ran track in high school. Hunting and fishing were his favorite hobbies.

Baseball? Reimer played, but only with local summer teams. It wasn’t until he was a high school senior that Reimer decided to make baseball his primary sport. He believed it might provide a more promising future.

“My dad wanted me to go to North Dakota to play hockey and baseball,” he said. “I wanted to come to Southern California to play baseball year-round. . . . I heard about Orange Coast, and decided to go down to check it out.”

OCC Coach Mike Mayne liked what he saw in Reimer, a 6-foot 3-inch, 215-pound left-handed hitter.

“I thought there was no way the guy was going to be able to compete as a freshman,” Mayne said. “He was big, could run and had a quick bat. But he was raw, threw awkwardly and was a bad defensive player.”

But he improved quickly.

In his freshman season, Reimer set school records by hitting 12 home runs and compiling a .798 slugging percentage. (Joey James set the school’s current single-season records with 19 home runs and .918 slugging percentage in 1985).

“Kevin is one of the premier power hitters in all of college baseball,” Mayne said in early 1984, at the start of Reimer’s sophomore season. “I mean the top five at any level.”

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After two seasons at OCC, where he hit .320 with 20 homers and 94 RBIs through 1983-84, and a summer playing for Canada’s national team, Reimer went to Cal State Fullerton. He hit .269 as a junior, and was selected by the Rangers in the 11th round of the 1985 June draft.

A little more than three years later, Reimer continues to improve.

“In the last two months, Kevin’s shown the consistency and the hitting for power that everyone in the Texas Ranger organization has hoped and expected that would eventually come through,” said Tulsa Manger Jim Skaalen.

“If he continues this way, there’ll be nothing that stops him. He hits left-handers very well, he’s been consistent and has great power potential. The organization is really looking at him with a lot of interest now. He’s opened up a lot of eyes.”

But are Reimer’s eyes wide open in awe? Not hardly. Despite his slow start this season--hitting .205 in early June--Reimer said he’s not all that surprised.

“It’s basically a matter of becoming a more mature baseball player and believing in my abilities,” he said. “I try my best, but I don’t try too hard . . . you have to realize that great success is really an on-and-off thing. I’ve worked on just relaxing, and trying to just hit to be consistent.”

After just two weeks with his Class-A team at Little Falls, N.Y., former Esperanza High School star Doug Saunders is finding his groove.

Saunders, who was called up from the Mets’ Rookie team at Sarasota, Fla., Aug. 1, leads the Little Falls Mets with a .388 batting average. Monday night against Elmira, N.Y., with his parents in the stands, Saunders went 4 for 4 with two RBIs.

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“They weren’t the type of pitchers we’re used to facing around here,” Saunders, 18, said. “They were like high school pitchers.”

But Saunders said that not much else in his minor league life reminds him of high school.

“It hasn’t been easy,” he said. “It’s been a lot of work. I’ve changed quite a few things. My fielding’s been changed all around, I’m starting to get my glove out farther, keeping it in front more. . . . And on my swing, I’m keeping my front shoulder in more . . .

“I’ve been taking a lot more extra batting practice (because) up here, it’s tough. Most pitchers throw the same stuff, good breaking balls, good changeups, some split-fingered fastballs . . . It goes on and on.”

Dave Rohde, a pitching star for Corona del Mar High in 1982, stopped pitching five years ago to concentrate on hitting while he played for the University of Arizona from 1983-86.

Now Rohde, who plays shortstop for the double-A Columbus Astros, an affiliate of the Houston Astros, is improving from both sides of the plate.

"(Switch-hitting) is something I tried out one day and did fairly well,” said Rohde, a natural right-handed hitter. “It’s worked out for best so far.”

In 126 games this season, Rohde, 24, is hitting .254 with 18 doubles, 4 home runs and 53 RBIs. Since he began switch-hitting four weeks ago, his batting average has risen 30 points.

It has given Rohde increased confidence for the future.

“I’ve moved up a level every year,” Rohde said. “So I’m hoping it stays that way.”

Ruben Gonzales wasn’t happy when, as a freshman at Rancho Santiago College, he was passed over in the 1985 June professional draft.

That year, Gonzales, a former standout at Buena Park High School, had hit .428 with 11 home runs and was named the best hitter in California community colleges.

After two years at Rancho Santiago, and one at Pepperdine, Gonzales signed last July with the Mariners. He’s hitting .309 with 8 home runs and 53 RBIs with the Mariners’ Class-A team at Wausau, Wis.

“I’ve always thought I could hit,” he said. “I guess I had to convince some people.”


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