Austin Kearns’ baseball career has really turned into a trainwreck. It’s hard to believe how fast his stock has fallen since Ray King sat on him at home plate in Cincinnati, just before mid-season in 2003. Afterall, Kearns hit .315 as a rookie and then was baseball’s most dangerous hitter for the first couple months of that 2003 season. He was a fine tuned machine that was becoming the player we feared Adam Dunn could not.
We always liked Kearns. He signed a ball for us right on the sweet spot one visit to Great American Ball Park. We’ve also had friends who were friends type of deals. By all accounts, Kearns seems like a good ol’ boy. A chip right off the Diamond Hogger block.
But Kearns’ latest derailment is an injury that will sideline him 3-4 weeks. Long ago, we doubted we’d ever see that initial Kearns again with those flashes of brilliance. A guy who hit with power to all fields and had a howitzer for a throwing arm.
That said, he needs another change of scenery. The decision for a laid back country boy to sign a multi-year deal in that slum D.C. was a huge mistake. I’m sure that places with a few more cowboy boots and spurs would welcome Kearns, at least for a while.
Our favorite Kearns story was a night when the Reds hosted the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. It was of course, towards the end of Kearns’ Reds tenure and Wily Mo Pena was playing over Kearns that particular night. In the bottom of the 9th inning, Pena hit an upper deck walk-off blast to win the game for the Reds. As the Reds gathered at home plate to celebrate, my buddy pointed out something; barely able to eek out the words with hilarity overcoming him.
“KEARNS HAS A HELMET ON! WHY’S HE GOT A HELMET ON?”
And there he was. Kearns, at home plate; ears flapping wildly, and yes he had his batting helmet on although there was no indication that he was going to get to pinch hit (the Reds were in the heart of the order).