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Making the Most of Opportunity

May 31, 2005

by Simit Shah

Jeff Kindel paused when asked about his last two seasons as a member of the Georgia Tech baseball team. After a promising freshman season, the lefthander had seen his collegiate pitching career grind to a painful halt.

“It’s been tough the last couple of years, just not getting to play very much,” the redshirt junior said after a few moments. “Struggling on the mound was really tough on me.”

Kindel appeared in 15 games during his rookie campaign, compiling a 3.52 ERA as a reliever. However, he redshirted his sophomore season, and the following season saw him drop to end of the bench.

However, a glimmer of hope came on April 6 last season. During a 25-3 rout of Georgia State, Tech baseball coach Danny Hall inserted Kindel as a pinch-hitter. A formidable leadoff hitter at Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Kindel responded with two hits, planting a seed in Hall’s mind.

“When we saw him pinch-hit against Georgia State last year, I felt he would have a better chance to help us as a position player than as a pither,” explained Hall. “We had him in the outfield this entire fall, and it was easy to tell that he was going to contribute.”

Kindel figured that he’d be a role player this season, but instead he’s been a fixture in the outfield and in the middle of the batting order.

“It started out that I was going to be the fourth outfielder, probably DH a little, but things have worked out so I’m in the lineup everyday,” he said. “I’m just having fun with it.”

That fun has translated into plenty of success. He’s hitting .367 with a team-high 22 doubles. He has hit safely in 44 of the 56 games he has played, and his 62 RBI rank fourth on the team. His regular season performance earned him second-team all-ACC honors.

“I give him all the credit,” stated Hall. “He’s a guy that didn’t get to compete for a couple of years. Most guys in that situation would have tried to transfer to another school, but he decided to stick it out. He got an opportunity as a position player, and he took full advantage of it. I also think he’s one of our unsung heroes. He’s also one of the guys that makes every else work and play hard everyday.”

“I had to prove to myself that I could play at this level,” added Kindel. “It feels really good to be contributing and playing everyday. I’m having a blast right now. It’s so much fun to come to the ballpark everyday.”

Kindel’s contributions have been a big part of the Jackets’ success this season. The squad captured both the ACC regular season and tournament championships. During the tournament, he was one of the keys to Tech’s high-powered offense, which scored 36 runs in four games, as he drove in six runs and scored four times.

Against Wake Forest in the Jackets’ opening game of the tournament, Kindel homered in the pivotal fifth inning as Tech rallied from an 7-0 deficit to win 9-8. It was the third straight game that Kindel went deep.

Fresh off their conference title, Kindel and his teammates head into this weekend’s NCAA regional as the nation’s number two seed. Georgia Tech (42-16) hosts Furman at 4 p.m. this Friday at Russ Chandler Stadium. The regional also includes South Carolina and Michigan.

As the Jackets begin their quest for a berth in Omaha, Kindel feels that his team’s chemistry sets them apart.

“Everyone has a cool head,” he said. “Everyone feeds off each other, and we just have a good time on and off the field. It’s really paying off in games. We’re more relaxed and able to let our ability take over.

“If you play well at the right time, you can beat anybody. You just want to be playing your best baseball this time of year, and we are.”

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