Hurler back on home turf

Fruitvale native James Donaldson is making his return to Grand Forks International with the Trail Orioles after 6 years with the Phillies.

It’s not exactly Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park, but James Donaldson Park at the Grand Forks International may be the next best place for AM Ford Orioles pitcher Chris Kissock to be.

The Fruitvale native is making his return to the GFI with the Trail Orioles after six years of professional baseball in the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

Kissock last threw in the GFI with the Lewiston Truckers in 2006, and has since pitched with the AA Reading Phillies and A Clearwater Threshers before his release Aug. 3.

“It was a little bit disappointing,” said Kissock, a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher with a wicked split-finger. “But maybe another door will open for me.”

Kissock also helped the Orioles to the Senior Men’s Western AA final last weekend and will be a welcome addition to the Orioles lineup at the Grand Forks tournament this week.

“I’m excited, it’s fun . . . it’s also practice for me to keep playing before the GFI and to go with Team Canada in September.”

The 27 year old joins Team Canada for the World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament in Germany Sept. 20-24.

It’s the first year the Classic is holding a qualifying round, where 16 teams compete to determine the final set of teams that will play in the 2013 tournament.

Team Canada plays in a pool with Great Britain, Germany, and Czech Republic with the winner advancing.

“I think we’ll do just fine, we should qualify,” said Kissock. “You know, you don’t want to talk to early and jinx yourself, you still have to go over and play.”

Kissock came off an unprecedented year with Team Canada winning bronze at the IBAF World Cup tournament and gold at the Pan Am Games, before the team was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in June.

“I think after our Pan Am Games when we won the gold medal, I think we moved up to number six in the world baseball rankings,” added Kissock. “Team Canada is pretty good baseball right now.”

And a good place for Kissock to show that he’s still got the goods to be a pro baseball player; particularly after an injury caused by a change in his delivery sidelined him at the start of the season.

“This whole year has been a pretty rough year,” said Kissock. “I went down sidearm and ended up getting hurt and coming back and I just wasn’t the same. So I went back over the top and things have been good so far.”

At the suggestion of his coaches in Reading at the start of the season, Kissock made a dramatic change from a regular over the top delivery to a submarine pitcher.

“You know I liked it, because maybe it would give me an advantage to help me get to the big leagues, but if I’d have known how it would turn out, I wouldn’t have done it – I wouldn’t do it over again, but you can’t turn back time.”

The change up caused an intercostal rib injury that sidelined him for almost two months.

When Kissock faces the San Diego Stars at the GFI tonight, the former Trail Smoke Eater will take the mound in his more familiar set up.

“I’m absolutely more comfortable. It just took a little while to get back to it, that’s why I’ve been practicing with the Orioles.”

It is also the first summer in a while that he has been able to spend with his family and fiancée Shaunna, however, a short break, followed by a stint with Team Canada, has him looking to return to pro ball.

“Hopefully with Team Canada I can talk to Ernie (Whitt) and some of the coaches and see what I have for options.”

Kissock could get picked up by another Major League team sometime in November, at the conclusion of the winter meetings.

“Hopefully I’ll get an invite from a team to go to spring training, and if not I’ll try and go play independent ball.”

Kissock is scheduled to start the game against the San Diego at 5 p.m. today at James Donaldson Park in Grand Forks.

The Orioles then play Thurston County Senators Friday at 2 p.m. and the Northwest Honkers Saturday at 8 a.m. to conclude the round robin.

The GFI has put  $43,000 in prize money up for grabs at the always exciting tournament.

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