College : : Story
Thursday, May 27, 2010

UNLV's Kretchmer Hoping For a Chance

Jim Ecker        
All Kyle Kretchmer wants is a chance to play pro baseball. That's all. Just a chance.

He'll be happy to go in the 45th round of the draft. Even the 50th.

"I don't care," he said. "I'll take the plane fare and go. I don't need any money."

Maybe you haven't heard about Kyle Kretchmer, and that's the problem. Not many people have.

He'll turn 24 this August, and he's just now coming into his own as a fifth-year senior at UNLV. He was hurt in Year 1, didn't get very many at-bats in Years 2 and 3, then hit .329 with five homers
and 23 RBIs in just 82 at-bats in Year 4.

Most guys in his situation would have called it a career last year. He's a brilliant student and graduated in 2009 with a 3.92 GPA. That's magna cum laude, by the way, and he's twice been UNLV's Student-Athlete of the Year.

He's taking grad-level courses and medical school beckons, but he wasn't ready to quit baseball. A good thing, too, because he's hitting a team-best .381 for the Rebels this season with nine homers and 40 RBIs. His 17-game hitting streak was snapped in the second round of the Mountain West Conference tournament Wednesday in San Diego, but UNLV won and he could care less about the streak.

Kretchmer refused to quit the game he loves.
"I think it's just my drive to succeed, to be honest with you," he told Perfect Game USA. "I think it's something that was instilled in me by my parents. You want to be the best you can be, you want to succeed in whatever you do."

Kretchmer's mammoth Batting Practice home runs are legendary at UNLV. A big man at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, he's belted them 450 feet ... 475 feet ... some of them over 500 feet. That was BP, however. They didn't count in games, and he didn't get many chances in his early years with the Rebels.

He broke his wrist as a true freshman in 2006 and did not play. He got 21 at-bats as a redshirt freshman in 2007 and hit .190, then got 29 at-bats in 2008 and raised his mark to .276. That gave him a grand total of 50 at-bats in three years, making him a big left-handed bat with a regular spot on the bench.

Still, he stuck it out.

"It definitely wasn't easy," he said. "In the long run, I guess it all turns out."

Kretchmer does not blame UNLV coach Buddy Gouldsmith for not playing him more in the early years. He said he came from a small high school in Carmel, Calif., where baseball was not played at a high level. He wasn't ready for Division I college baseball.

"I think it took me awhile to adjust," he said.

That was then. This is now.

The UNLV baseball team (29-27) has won its first two games in the Mountain West Conference tournament and Kretchmer is now a big part of the team. He's a first baseman, with a slugging percentage of .667 and an on-base percentage of .471.

Perfect Game president Jerry Ford first heard about Kretchmer when a friend called raving about a big guy from UNLV who had “light tower” power. “I got a call from a very trustworthy source about this kid at UNLV," Ford related. "I was told that the kid might have the most power of any player in college baseball, but not many know about it.” 

Ford went on to say, “The first thing I always do is check our database and noticed he was in there from his high school days. The source of this information was the 2005 Area Code list of tryout prospects. We just didn’t have much on him from a scouting perspective, other than he was big and had power potential from the left side.  Hitting and power are two premium tools and this kid has them. I understand that he is very intelligent, but wants to play at the professional level. I would like to see some Major League club check out that power bat and give him an opportunity that he has deserved.”

Kretchmer doesn't claim to be the world’s greatest athlete, but he's shown he can hit a baseball in a good league. Ask him about his strengths, and he'll poke fun at himself before getting to the good stuff.

"I'm definitely not fast," he said, laughing. "I think it's my ability to put the ball in play with power."
Kretchmer is thinking about the draft that will be held on June 7-9, but he's not getting much feedback from scouts.

"To be honest with you, not really," he said. "I don't have a body of work to fall back on. I don't think many people have seen me play."

He's played in 41 of 56 games for UNLV this season, with 35 starts. Most of his action has come in the last six weeks, and he's produced in a big way. Now he'd like an opportunity to produce at the next level.

Heck, he'd even sign as a 23-year-old free agent if somebody would let him.

"Sure. Just anything to continue playing," he said.

"I'd really like a chance. I'd LOVE to have a chance," he said passionately, "and I'm working really hard to have that chance."
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