Making It: Dean Kiekhefer, St. Louis Cardinals
Who are you, where are you from, and who do you play for currently?Dean Kiekhefer. I am from LaGrange Kentucky it is about a half hour outside of Louisville Kentucky. I attended the University of Louisville. I play for the St. Louis Cardinals organization. This season have split time between triple a Memphis and the big leagues. Currently in Memphis.
Name one thing you love about baseball.
One thing I love about baseball is having the chance to compete everyday. Sometimes we have really good days sometimes we have really bad days. But what I love is that with baseball there is always tomorrow. We get to play almost everyday so it gives you the opportunity to forget about bad days.
What characteristic do you have (besides physical ability) that you feel has helped you make it this far in baseball?
A big characteristic I have that has helped me make it to the big leagues is being a student of the game. As a reliever I get to watch a lot of baseball and every game I have a chance to learn and grow my knowledge of the game. The more you watch you can prepare yourself for situations that you may be in. You have to know your position and be able to anticipate any possible situation that may happen. As a young player I would always think about what I needed to do if the ball was hit to me before that next pitch. You have to be mentally locked in each and every pitch. When playing think only about the game situation and not what you may be doing when the game is over or your last at bat or inning for you pitch weather it was good or bad.
Another trait would be having a good work ethic and a routine that works for you. For me I found that being a creature of habit helps me to prepare for each and everyday. What I mean by that is doing the exact same thing everyday so mentally I know I'm pre paired for that game. For me it is as precise as throwing the same amount of throws in my catch each day, stretching at the same time in the game (as I am a relief pitcher), doing my arm care daily. Early in my career I had to tweak things around but once I found the routine that worked best for me I stuck with it. That doesn't mean there won't be bad days but I learned when you trust the process more times then not you come out on top. My routine works for me but that doesn't mean it will work for everyone you have to find what is best for you mentally and physically once you do that trust it!
Name one person in your life (past or present) that impacted your baseball life the most, and how did they impact it?
The person in my life that impacted my career the most was my father. I have a great deal of respect for him as he worked a hard 9-5 job everyday but as soon as he got home if I wanted to play catch or take ground balls he did that for me. I cannot remember one time that he told me he was to tired or just wanted to relax. He also did not let me throw breaking balls at a young age and always had me on a pitch count. I believe that has helped me get to where I am now because he took care of my arm when I was a young kid. Sometimes in today's world of sports we really want to win at all costs but you have to remember that's kids hopefully have a lot of baseball left to play so don't burn them out to early.
What motivates you when you're having a down day, or a day where you may not want to go to work?
What motivates me when I'm having a down day or don't feel like going to work is remember that I get to play a game for a job. The game I have loved since I was 5 years old. I look back at all the kids and teammates I played with growing up and know that almost all of them would trade me places in a heart beat. It truly is a blessing to be able to do what you love for a job.
If a kid came up to you and asked you 'how do I become a professional baseball player?', what would be your short answer?
If a kid came up to me and asked me how to become a professional baseball player I would tell them they have to put the time into the game. If it is truly what you want to do you will be outside everyday trying to get better at some part of your game. Don't let anyone take your dream away and if you truly work as hard as you can whether it comes true or not you can say you did everything in your power to reach your dream.
Name one lesson you take from baseball that you have applied to your off the field life.
One lesson I have taken from baseball and applied to my everyday life is doing everything to the best of my ability. If I'm going to do something I want to do it right. If I have a chore to do around the house I take the time to do it right the first time so I don't have to do it again. This also applies to being the best teammate and friend possible. Off the field I want to be the best husband, son, brother and friend.
Name one superstition you have (baseball or not baseball related).
One superstition I have is if I have a not so good outing I will switch up my hair cut or facial hair. This season I started out by trying to grow a beard for the first time in my life and I kept it a while because I was pitching well. Then when I had a couple not so good outings I went down to just a goatee. Now I'm rocking just chin hair! It's kinda funny that my thing is changing my appearance but as I said in another question I have found the routine that works for me so I trust that and stick to it so I don't ever change that.
What are your baseball goals this year?
My baseball goals this year are to not mentally take any pitches off. Every time I make a pitch I want to mentally believe that I'm going to get that batter out with that pitch. Before the season started my number one answer would have been to make it to the big leagues this season as it is my 7th professional season. Thankfully that one came true but now my biggest goal is to get back to the big leagues and be able to stick there.