Before Kevin Newman played a game in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League last summer, he had a reputation as a solid hitter, an even better fielder and a really good teammate.
One of his teammates from Arizona was talking him up to anyone that would listen.
“I remember at the beginning of the Cape, I told people, ‘You watch, this guy is going to be a dude,’” said UA pitcher Mat Troupe, who spent his summer in the Cape Cod league with a different team. “They’d be like, ‘Oh Troupe, you don’t know what you’re talking about, he’s just your teammate.’
“Sure enough, he proved me right.”
Newman led the league in hitting, batting .375 in 40 games, and was one of just two players to hit better than .300 and steal more than 15 bases. He won the batting title by 25 points over TCU’s Kevin Cron, who was a third-round draft pick out of high school in 2011.
All of that came after a banner college season.
As a UA freshman, Newman finished 11th in the Pac-12 with a .336 batting average, led the team with 23 multiple-hit games, and boasted a .329 average on the road. He was also eighth in the Pac-12 with 42 RBIs.
The shortstop was strong in the field, too, posting a .978 fielding percentage and making just six errors.
Louisville Slugger named Newman to its Freshman All-American team.
So how does Newman top all that as a sophomore and get even better in 2014?
Even coach Andy Lopez has a tough time answering that. The Wildcats will hold their annual Meet the Team day Saturday at 11 a.m. at Hi Corbett Field. The team opens its season Feb. 14 against Kent State.
“I’m probably really scratching every cranny right now, because he’s such a great young man, and he’s a pretty good baseball player, too,” Lopez said. “In terms of some of the intangibles we need at the University of Arizona, he just needs to grab this team and say, ‘Follow me. I’m a really good player.’
“I constantly remind him of what (former shortstop) Alex Mejia was when he was here, how he literally would not let his team lose. He’ll get better at that.”
There are a couple of tangible parts of Newman’s game that can be improved.
The shortstop would like to add more power to his repertoire this season. Of his 60 hits in the Cape Cod league, 57 were singles.
When pressed, Lopez said Newman can improve his arm strength and work on his pivots around second base.
But Troupe was right at the start of the Cape — Newman will probably be “a dude” to watch over the next couple of years.
The Star chatted with the Poway, Calif., native about his summer, the upcoming season, and why it was so easy for him to adjust to college baseball.
On playing in the Cape Cod league: “It was a great time. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I had a great host family, a great experience, my teammates were awesome — it was a great time all around. I definitely wasn’t expecting to win the batting crown. I set a goal for myself before the summer to make the All-Star team. I did that, and then the second half of the season I turned it on and was lucky enough to pull ahead and win that title.”
On winning the batting crown: “It’s pretty cool to think about that. It’s nice. I don’t think too much of it. Every year someone does it. It’s nice to have, but at the same time, it’s like, ‘OK, I got it and now it’s time to move forward and keep getting better.’”
On becoming more of a leader: “My role definitely has changed. When I see a freshman or sophomore or even a junior, if they mess up or do something wrong or have a mental lapse, I’ll tell them about it and say, ‘You have to do this, you have do that.’ It’s more of a helping, teaching thing than being on top of them. It’s being next to them and helping out as much as I can.”
On being able to adjust to the college game so easily: “I think my swing really plays at this park. I’m not a power guy, I’m a line-drive hitter. With how much field there is here, I think it’s very beneficial. For the new guys, I just tell them it’s the same game, it’s just a little faster. They’re here for a reason. They’re at Arizona for a reason. They’re good baseball players. They have to believe in themselves and their abilities.”