Homegrown Homecoming: Mike Kingery


I have this T-shirt with a caricature of the Rockies’ 1995 wild card team on it. I love this T-shirt. It is a rag by now because I’ve worn it so many times. I didn’t wash it during their entire 2007 postseason run and wore it during every game. Its luck ran out during the World Series, but I like to think it helped a little.  

There’s one guy on that shirt who just seems kind of out of place, and that guy is Mike Kingery. I don’t mean to say that Kingery wasn’t a good guy or a good player. But he was nothing like a Dante Bichette or an Andres Galarraga. Looking back at the Rockies’ roster for that year, it seems that Kingery just got lucky. Lucky that there was really nobody else who could play center field every day.

Kingery’s defense was definitely the main thing he brought to the party. He committed just 20 errors in 10 seasons in the majors. However, he was a different story offensively. In 1994, he hit .349 with the Rockies, but every other season he was below .300. He had very little power, hitting just 12 home runs in two seasons in Colorado. Kingery earned $250,000 in 1994 and $700,000 in 1995. You just don’t hear those kinds of numbers in the majors anymore. I think he was what you’d call a career minor leaguer, but nobody figured that out, so he just kept signing with teams.

Kingery started his career with the Royals and went on to play several seasons with the Mariners. He spent a couple of years in San Francisco and one across the bay in Oakland before joining the Rockies. He primarily shared center field with Ellis Burks who, as you can imagine, would have gotten all the starts if he’d been healthy. But Burks was injury-prone and only put in 80 games in 1995. Others vying for the center field spot were Quinton McCracken and Trenidad Hubbard, but both were still young and inexperienced. So Don Baylor looked around his dugout and said, I think I’ll give Kingery a shot. Kingery started 111 games in center field in 1995 and, even though he contributed next to nothing, that was good enough to give him a spot on the T-shirt.

After that, Kingery spent one season in Pittsburgh before retiring. He moved with his family back to his home state of Minnesota, where he opened the Solid Foundation Baseball School, which holds camps and private lessons for young baseball players. Kingery’s family also plays in a Christian bluegrass band, and if you attend church in central Minnesota or intend to turn 95 any time soon, they will play at your event.

 

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