Fruitvale native Chris Kissock returns to professional baseball this season after signing a contract to play with Winnipeg Goldeyes of the American Association of Professional Baseball League (AAPBL) earlier this month.
The six-foot-four, former Philadelphia Phillies prospect’s connection to Team Canada paid off as General Manager Greg Hamilton helped Kissock get in touch with the Goldeyes and the Quebec Capitales of the Can-Am League.
“He emailed those guys, and they called me the next day,” said Kissock. “It became kind of a bidding war between Quebec and Winnipeg, and it just turned out that Winnipeg was better.”
The Goldeyes won the AAPBL title last season, playing in a 14-team league comprised of teams in cities from Manitoba to Texas and the hard throwing right hander with a nasty split-finger should be a good fit.
“He’s going to add a lot of experience,” Goldeyes manager Rick Forney told the Winnipeg Press. “We’re going to use him out of the bullpen and maybe even give him the opportunity to be our closer.”
The move marks Kissock’s return to professional baseball after a drastic change in mechanics caused a rib injury last April that put him out for six weeks, and was a major factor in his subsequent release from the Major League Baseball team’s system.
“Once pitchers get to a certain age and plateau out at the Double-A level, most organizations feel their last ditch effort of trying to get someone over the hump to becoming a Major League pitcher is to change their arm slot and become a situational type guy,” Forney added. “That didn’t work with Chris. He wasn’t able to stay consistent and wound up getting hurt because of it. He’s back to his normal arm slot, his velocity is back and he’s feeling good. He’s anxious to get back on the mound and try to recapture what he did back in 2010.”
Kissock played a crucial role in Team Canada’s bronze medal win at the IBAF World Cup and followed that up with a gold medal win at the PanAm Games in 2011.
He was nothing short of brilliant when he returned to his regular mechanics and pitched lights out for the AM Ford Trail Orioles in a second-place finish at the Western AA Men’s baseball championship in Winnipeg last August, and brought the team to within a run of making the semifinals at the Grand Forks International baseball tournament where he was named to the tournament allstar team.
“Hopefully after a month or two I’ll get picked up by any major league team and they’ll send me to Double-A or Triple-A or wherever they need me,” said Kissock.
Kissock also pitched for Canada at the 2012 World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament last fall, but was left off the roster for the Classic earlier this month. Canada lost its final qualifying game against the U.S. blowing a lead in the late innings, ironically in about the same spot that Kissock shines.
Kissock has been working out at the Willi Krause Field House over the winter, and Butler Park of late, and feels he is ready to return.
“I am very excited,” he added. “Come the beginning of February I was just kind of down, nothing’s happening. I wasn’t hearing from (Team) Canada, I wasn’t hearing from anyone to go to spring training and then finally, you know the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so I called around and eventually things happened.”
The 27-year-old right hander attended Lewis and Clark College in Portland, and spent his first six seasons as a pro in the Philadelphia Phillies organization, in Double-A Reading in the Eastern League, and Single-A Clearwater.
However unlike those previous stints in pro ball, this time around the recently married pitcher will be accompanied by his wife Shaunna, who he says, should make the transition that much easier and more comfortable.
“Last year was a very tough year and I just want to get back at it. Because I know that last year wasn’t the way I wanted it to end, so I’m happy to get back and throwing over the top. Hopefully I’ll get picked up, but if I’m there the whole season that’s okay too.”
Kissock was drafted by the Phillies in the ninth round of the 2007 Major League amateur entry draft.