Brett Kinneman has earned a scholarship to play NCAA Division I college baseball. (File Photo)
While the York-Adams League hasn’t always had the strongest baseball reputation over the years, that perception is quickly changing.
The recent success of programs such as West York, York Catholic and Spring Grove have fueled that.
You can also add in outstanding individual talents such as York Catholic’s Erich Hartman and West York’s Brett Kinneman into the mix. Hartman, a senior, and Kinneman, a junior, have earned scholarships to play NCAA Division I college baseball.
Kinneman, who gave a verbal commitment to North Carolina State last month, figures to play center field for the Wolfpack, while Hartman, who accepted a scholarship to Kentucky, figures to pitch for the Wildcats.
Kinneman is coming off a sophomore season in which he batted .260 with two homers, 14 RBIs, 16 runs scored and 15 stolen bases for the two-time PIAA Class AAA champion Bulldogs. The southpaw figures to primarily play center when he’s not pitching for West York this coming spring.
We caught up with Kinneman recently to discuss his college selection for this edition of Sports Q&A.
What went into the thinking of making your decision to commit to N.C. State so early?
“I visited there about a month and a half ago, and when I went there it was just a great fit for me. As crazy as it sounds, down in that area this is the time for this kind of stuff to happen. So it seems like it’s early, but it really isn’t that early.”
So when did your college search begin?
“About last fall. I play on a team over the summer and it’s called Chandler Baseball. Last fall we played in a tournament down in Florida and it was like the biggest amateur baseball tournament in the country. So I started getting a couple of looks from there. So it went about a month and (colleges) can’t call me because I was too young for that, but I can call them whenever I want. So I kept contacting coaches and stuff over the winter months. Then they started to see me play over (this) summer, so that’s kind of when the whole scholarship thing started coming about.”
From previous reports it sounded as if you were more interested in North Carolina initially. What intrigued you about North Carolina, and what were the factors that ultimately pulled you away?
“Well, both places are amazing. They both have very good programs. I just felt that I was a better fit at N.C. State than I was at UNC. And that’s not to take anything away from UNC. They’ve been very good for a lot of years. But I just felt that I would fit better in the N.C. State program than I would at North Carolina.”
Were there any other Division I schools in play?
“Yeah. I had about eight or nine other offers. I’d say some of the other big players were probably Wake Forest, East Carolina and West Virginia.”
Who all helped with your college search?
“The main guy was Mark Helsel, who’s a part of Chandler Baseball. He helped me a lot with just kind of getting my name out and stuff like that. (West York) Coach (Roger) Czerwinski helped a lot, not necessarily in the recruiting process, but just getting me ready for this kind of stuff. I mean, if I didn’t play for as good of a high school program as I do at West York, I don’t think any of this would be possible. I’ve learned so much these past two years in terms of baseball and in being a better leader and things like that. So that has helped tremendously. And then my dad (Greg) has helped a lot, too. He took me all over the place during the summer. So those three were probably the main ones.”
How helpful has it been to play on two PIAA Class AAA championship squads?
“The experience of being a part of those two teams and learning a lot of different things that would help me enhance myself is a big factor. But as far as the recruiting part, it’s not as much in the spring.”
What are your expectations for you personally this upcoming spring?
“I should be starting in center for the most part, but I should also get to pitch a lot of games with the loss of (my brother) Brandon (Kinneman) and Joey Prego. So we’re going to need some arms. I did throw some toward the end of last year, so I’ll probably pitch even more this year.”
Any expectations of possibly getting selected in the MLB draft, and if you were to get drafted, how difficult of a decision would that be for you?
“Well, I haven’t even thought a lot about that path. I still have a lot of work to do and (getting drafted) is definitely one of my goals. Now that the committing to a college thing has come about, my next goal is to continue to work hard and try to get myself into the best shape of my life.”
I know that Shiloh didn’t have an American Legion team this summer. Is that why you did the travel league thing instead, or was that the plan either way?
“Not having a Legion team definitely made it easier, but there are a lot of West York guys that did a lot of similar things that I did this summer. I’d say about 75 percent of our varsity team did the same thing I did this summer.”
Is playing for a travel team becoming more the norm now, vs. playing American Legion ball?
“I’m not really sure. I think that the summer travel thing is kind of growing and the Legion thing is kind of dying off a little bit. But I don’t really know. I think that travel ball is getting a lot more popular, I guess is what you would say.”
When you play for Chandler Baseball, who are some of the teams that you play against? Are they local or is it more national?
“This summer we played in Atlanta, which was a really big tournament. And we play teams from all over the country, whether it be Florida or even a team from California. I mean, it’s all over the place. It’s really awesome. There are a lot of really good players and it’s a really good experience.”
So is it more like a tournament type of setup?
“It’s more of a showcase. Our team … we kind of play more to win, but it’s more of a showcase type thing. Like in Atlanta, we played six games in five days. And we would play a game where there were probably 15 college coaches that came to see us play.”
Now you play baseball, your brother (Brandon) played baseball and your dad (Greg) played a number of years in the Central League. What has the sport meant to you and your family?
“Yeah, it’s awesome. My dad played, my brother played and he’s still going to try to play at Susquehanna University. It kind of runs our life. It’s all we kind of do nowadays. But it’s so much fun and I enjoy it a lot.”
What has been your favorite memory from baseball?
“Well, the past two years playing with my brother and the back-to-back championships. Even my dad was helping … he’s an assistant coach for the team. And my mom even kept the book. So to do that with your family is pretty awesome.”
What does it say about the state of the York-Adams League that two players have earned scholarships to play at big-time Division I schools after high school?
“I think the league is getting better and better every year. And there are some other guys, and there’s a lot of them, that are good players. I know that Drew Landis (Red Lion) is a pretty good player and Nick Spangler (Spring Grove) is someone that I expect to hook on with a pretty good program here sometime shortly. And there are some other guys, too. So the league just seems to be getting better year after year.”
– Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.