After a disappointing stint as a third baseman with the Houston Astros organization, 23-year-old right-handed pitcher Kyle Redinger has decided to give pro baseball one more try. On Thursday, he signed with the Oregon City Mud Turtles of the Mount Rainier Professional Baseball League. However, his two-year hiatus from the game of baseball has been quite an adventure.
Redinger was drafted out of Cedar Crest High School (Lebanon, Pa.) by the Astros in the 11th round of the 2010 MLB Draft. He had a great high school career batting .436 in his junior year and batting .439 in his senior year and was one of the state’s top players at that time. He also swiped 19 bases in 20 attempts in his senior year.
Unfortunately, his high school success didn’t carry over into the pros. He hit .186/.268/.234 with 24 RBI in 101 Rookie ball games from 2010-12 before being released by the Astros in the winter of 2012.
“(My time with the Astros organization) was good, but I definitely wasn’t ready for it,” Redinger said. “I learned a lot. Not only about the game of baseball, but about myself as well. It was a good learning experience for me. That’s for sure.”
He credits coaches like Edgar Alfonzo, Gordon Mackenzie, and Ty Van Burkleo as guys who taught the game the right way and helped him become a better player.
Following his release from the Astros, Redinger thought he was done with baseball. He went on to do other things away from the game, including a lot of volunteer work most notably for the Special Olympics.
“I coached power lifting with an athlete last fall and he won silver at the Games,” Redinger said. “That was a really incredible time. I just love being around athletes. I feel like you can learn a lot from them.”
Redinger plans to seek out volunteer work in the Oregon City area this summer.
Along with his volunteer work, he also attended Keiser University during his hiatus from baseball.
“I made a promise to my mom after I got drafted that I would go to college after I finished playing baseball. At the time (October 2013), I thought I was finished playing. But I wanted to do something that was still involved in sports, and I was really big into fitness.”
He initially studied golf management, but then realized he wanted to do something more geared towards fitness. He decided to switch from golf management to sports medicine and now hopes to become a strength and conditioning coach or a golf trainer some time down the road.
Despite being involved in other sports-related things other than baseball, Redinger’s love for the game never went away. While living in Port St. Lucie, Florida, he was constantly surrounded by the game. He occasionally went to see the St. Lucie Mets — the High-A affiliate of the New York Mets.
“It was kind of like going and seeing an ex-girlfriend or something,” Redinger explained. “I would go to games and see guys that I had played against in previous years realizing I could still be out there.”
Last August, he decided to return to the game of baseball. For the first time since being released by the Astros in 2012, he began participating in baseball activities. He worked hard to get himself ready for the 2015 season. He worked out with an ex-Marine named Tommy Lyons, who was a golf fitness trainer at Keiser University.
“He pretty much changed my world on workouts,” Redinger said, “helping me push myself to new levels that I had never reached.”
From August 2014 to January 2015, Redinger balanced school, work, and baseball in order to have a chance to return to the pros. He worked out twice a day — once in the morning with Lyons and once in the evening with former Warner University (Fla.) catcher Justin Neckles.
Neckles caught every one of Redinger’s bullpen sessions this past off-season.
“It was by far the best off-season I’ve ever had,” Redinger said. “I was very determined to get back into the game.”
Redinger pitched in this year’s California Winter League (CWL) where he featured a unique pitching repertoire. He throws a two-seam fastball, a knuckle-curveball and two different types of knuckleballs.
“One rolls off the table and shakes,” Redinger explained. “The other one is still thrown pretty hard and it just floats. I’d say it sits around 75-80 (miles per hour), but I’m not sure.”
He enjoyed his time in the CWL and said it was a great experience.
“Just being back on a team and having the competitive edge back has been great,” he said. “That’s one of the things I’ve missed the most.”
His transition from third base to the pitcher’s mound has been quite a smooth one. Redinger was a pitcher and an infielder in high school. He felt he could have been drafted as a pitcher as well.
In his junior year of high school, he went 3-3 with a 3.09 ERA in six starts. He tossed three complete games including one shutout. He also struck out 35 batters while surrendering 20 walks in 34 innings pitched.
“I always kind of thought about what things would be like if I was drafted as a pitcher,” he said, “but I don’t really dwell on all that.”
“I’m still young,” he continued. “I just turned 23 in December and I’m definitely more mature coming into this second round with pro ball. I’ve definitely grown into my body and am in the best shape of my life.”
Redinger is looking forward to the 2015 season with the Mud Turtles and is excited to once again be a professional baseball player.
“I’m pumped,” he said. “We have some big-time hitters on the team and it’s definitely going to be an exciting summer in Oregon City.”
Anton Joe is an Independent League Baseball Writer for Baseball Essential. You can follow him on Twitter @AntonJoe_BBE.