Patrick Finley: Mountain View grad Held intends to play on

2012-10-16T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T16:05:52Z Patrick Finley: Mountain View grad Held intends to play onPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 16, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Since graduating from Mountain View High School five years ago, Kenny Held has played baseball at Central Arizona in Coolidge, at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, N.M., and at Division II Cameron University in Lawton, Okla., where he was a first-team All-American.

He's played summer ball in Minnesota and North Carolina, and just finished his first year with the pro independent Grand Prairie (Texas) AirHogs.

Late last month, he took a leg-deadening, 8,500-mile flight to play six months for the Adelaide Bite of the Australian Baseball League.

The 23-year-old is as well-traveled as a Dopp kit, despite never playing an inning with an affiliated team.

"All my clothes," he said, "stay real close to my suitcase."

He's not getting rich.

In his rookie year with the AirHogs, which ended in August, Held tried to live on $5 Subway footlongs so he could pocket about half his road-trip per diem. During homestands, he shared an apartment with his manager, Ricky VanAsselberg.

"He had a spare bedroom, and all the movie channels," Held said. "So I had it made."

The skipper's plan for Held made him famous, at least in certain parts of the 175,000-person-or-so Dallas suburb.

The AirHogs were eliminated from playoff contention in the American Association - the equivalent of a good Single-A or bad Double-A league - the day before their season finale.

That night, the manager called a team meeting and looked at Held.

"Tomorrow," he said, "I'm going to let you play every position."

Held had played catcher, corner outfield and third base during the season. He even pitched one inning, striking out 2003 American League Rookie of the Year Angel Berroa.

The right-hander, who finished the season hitting .300 with four homers and 19 RBIs in 100 at-bats, was up for the stunt.

His only concern: The game was played in 93-degree Labor Day sun, the air so damp it felt like it was coming from the trunk of my nephew's elephant-shaped humidifier.

"I was so energetic and so excited to do it," he said. "It was more fun than anything."

He started at catcher, and, inning-by-inning, moved around the field in order. The second inning found Held at third base, followed by shortstop, second and first.

He worked his way around the outfield in the opposite direction, from right to center to left, before finishing on the mound.

And here's the most amazing thing you'll read all day: The ball found him in eight of the nine innings.

He finished 3 for 4 with an RBI double, and struck out the last batter of the game.

"One of my top moments," he said. "Afterward, I had to sit in the ice bath for 30 minutes.

"I was dead tired."

Held hoped the stunt "might open up some eyes" of the affiliated pro teams, but that hasn't happened yet.

His Australian season doesn't get him back to Tucson until late March, but he'd likely leave early if a minor-league team called.

If no one calls this winter, Held plans to return to the AirHogs next May, facing off against the Pheasants, T-Bones, RailCats and Lemurs of the American Association.

A part-timer at catcher most of his adult life, Held's joints lack the mileage of other 23-year-olds. His quickest path out of affiliated baseball, then, starts behind the plate.

"If I keep playing, I think it'll happen," he said.

He'll drain every last inning out of his baseball dream, either way.

"I'm going to keep playing until I can't any more," he said. "Until I can't even move."

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