Sunday, August 25, 2019

Williamsport's Simmons surging thanks to those around him

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Simmons (center) w/ Bryson Stott (left) & Corbin Williams (right)
The 26th of July stands out as a date that Kendall Simmons thinks he’ll remember for the rest of his playing career. It was on that day that his coaching staff offered some guidance that made a difference and helped the young infielder turn his season around.

On that day, the talented 19-year-old was batting .169 with two home runs and nine RBI through 21 disappointing games with Class A short-season Williamsport. It was a funk that Simmons couldn’t shake until a reality check from a pair of former big leaguers allowed some things to start clicking for the second baseman/shortstop/third baseman.

Crosscutters manager Pat Borders, a World Series MVP in 1992, and former Phillies farmhand, a current coach with the Crosscutters, Greg Brodzinski, shared valuable insight with Simmons about his potential.

“Basically they told me, ‘You have the best tools out here, by far. Without a doubt. And you can be the guy that has all the tools and never figures it out or you could turn a switch on today and compete on every at bat and don’t give up,’” Simmons said in the visiting team’s dugout at Richmond County Bank Ballpark this week, prior to the New York-Penn League All-Star Game.

The duo also cited concerns about the athletic righty hitter’s body language. Borders and “Bull” told Simmons that it was evident that he was down on himself, as a result of the offensive struggles. With a smile and an approachable attitude that is infectious, Simmons knew that wasn’t his nature.

“That really hit home and that’s the spark that I needed,” shared Simmons.

The ceiling that his professional mentors see for Simmons is the same sort of heights that Simmons’s older brothers have been talking about to him for years. Austin, 24, and Blake, 21, would motivate Kendall in his teenage years, whenever he felt tired or needed a swift kick in the pants, encouraging him to get to the baseball field and continue on his path to what they feel is greatness.

Austin played collegiate ball at Kennesaw State while Blake plays at Georgia Southern.  They bring the best out of Kendall.

"They push me to be the best that I can be," Simmons shared.  "Since I was little they always knew what my potential was growing up and no matter what, they always push me."

With the insight of two more experienced players in the same home, the youngest brother says Austin and Blake know, not only, a lot about the game, but also a lot about him.  Kendall can still go to them for advice and says they virtually raised him on a baseball field.

Kendall recalls an assertion Blake made to him years ago, that he would be a big league player some day.  Kendall, barely on any scout's radar at the time, didn't think that could be a reality.  Now, though, the more success he enjoys, the more Kendall has begun to believe in the evaluation that Blake made note of.

Another individual that the Georgia native credits with helping his progress is his roommate, Crosscutters catcher Logan O'Hoppe.

"I just try to be a pair of ears for him," said O'Hoppe.  "Whether he likes it or not, I'll give him my opinion.  But I just try to help him go into every day with a clear head."

Kendall Simmons, image- Jay Floyd
Simmons described advice he got from O'Hoppe as being a specific focus in batting practice.  Trying to drive the ball to the opposite field has allowed him to stay in the zone longer and, according to Simmons, it has changed the game for him.

O'Hoppe, who was also a New York Penn League All-Star, credits Simmons with using all outlets available to him in order to put together an exceptional approach and enhance the cerebral side of his game.

"He just took certain information and made it his own and he's done a great job with it, obviously." O'Hoppe stated.

Since the chat with Borders and Luzinski merged with the lessons he got from his blood brothers and his road brother to strap a rocket onto his skill set, Simmons is batting .343 with nine homers and 21 RBI in 21 games.

The pitfalls of professional baseball have proved to help Simmons triumph and he's grateful for every single moment to date.

"I’m learning from it, taking every day for what it’s worth, not leaving anything behind."

An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Greg Brodzinski as former Phillies great Greg Luzinski.   This site apologizes for the error.

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