June 25, 2011
By Jon Cooper
Paul Kronenfeld is a big name. At 14 letters it’s one of the biggest on the Georgia Tech baseball team.
Reputation-wise, his name was a big one heading onto the Georgia Tech campus last Fall.
He’d earned that rep, coming in as a two-time All-State selection while at Woodberry Forest High School (Va.), where he left as the career record-holder for batting average (.460) and RBIs (81), and set single-season marks for batting average (.508), homers (15) and RBIs (29).
But college changed things.
“The fall at Georgia Tech last year was really an eye-opener as far as how good the competition is and will be in the ACC,” he said.
Getting into only 22 games, and having only 28 at-bats were a reality check and put him on a mission to re-establish himself and his name. He’s using the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) as his venue and, thus far, his mission is off to a great start.
“I really came up here with a goal and a purpose to make a name for myself and use every opportunity I could to get my skills better so I could hopefully come in and contribute for Tech next year,” said Kronenfeld. “I needed to get off to a good start just because I wanted to prove myself to everybody in the league, make a name for myself. I’ve certainly done that, in my opinion, because guys are starting to pitch around me. I’m getting pitched to a lot tougher.”
Through 10 games for the Sanford Mainers, Kronenfeld has drawn a league-leading nine walks. He also ranks among the league leaders in hits (10), RBIs (8, tied for second in the league), doubles (3), on-base percentage (.465), runs created (6.02), and stolen bases (6 in seven attempts, third in the league).
Those are numbers more indicative of his talent than his freshman numbers for Georgia Tech, when he batted only .143 (4-for-28), with one double and one RBI and a .226 OBP.
Kronenfeld has been a model of consistency, as he’s reached base in nine of the 10 games he’s played, recording a hit in seven of them, and he hasn’t had back-to-back hitless games. The Mainers are off to a 6-4 start, good for second in the Eastern Division, a half-game behind the Newport Gulls.
The 20-year-old from Greensboro, N.C., credited a couple of factors for finding his stroke again.
“I’ve really improved my lefty-on-lefty match-up. I’m hitting left-handers really well, which was something I struggled with in the fall,” he said. “Also, [Georgia Tech Assistant] Coach [Bryan] Prince and I really worked a lot on laying off off-speed pitches and sitting back and hitting fastballs. We did a lot of work on that during the season and it’s really paying off right now because I’m able to see the off-speed a lot better.”
Getting the opportunity to play regularly has helped.
“I was really excited to go out and play every day again,” he said. “I knew that my skills were there. It was just a matter of getting the experience. Coming up here and playing every day, I know will definitely help me in the long haul as far as getting that experience I need.”
For Kronenfeld, that long haul hopefully includes playing in the prestigious Cape Cod League next Summer. But he said the NECBL, whose Major League alumni include Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier, Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan, San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson, Oakland A’s pitcher and 2009 American League Rookie of the Year Andrew Bailey, and Washington Nationals pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg, measures up quite well.
“There are a lot of top players from the Northeast up here as well as kids from really all over,” he said. “The pitching is really tough. I would compare it to any other league. I know there are the elite leagues, like the Cape, but this league is very solid as far as the players that are in it.”
The league runs into August, at which point Kronenfeld plans to put the positive experience to bed and enjoy the opportunity to spend the final weeks of summer in his own bed, someplace he hasn’t been in quite a while.
“Doing this has been fun but I was home, I think, a day and a half before leaving for Maine after our regional and I hadn’t been home since Christmas break,” he said. “I’ll probably just stay at home and relax with my family.”
Then, it’s back to the grind.
“School will start back in late-August,” he said. “I’ll just prepare my body to get ready for the rigors of having school and playing baseball every day, and getting ready for [Georgia Tech Strength and Conditioning Coach] Steve Tamborra’s workouts.”