Having the ability to get to the highest level of one sport is a tall enough task for most people. For just one of those professional athletes out there, there are dozens of people who topped out in college, high school, or even middle school gym class. When you think about it, the combination of both physical and mental attributes required to push to the top of any sport is rare and that's before you get to the sheer drive and will it takes to pursue such a lofty goal. To sum up, it's very hard to be a world-class athlete in one sport and it takes a special person to make it.
Now imagine what it's like to try to conquer a second one. That's what Kieran Powell is trying to do. A professional cricket star with the West Indies International Cricket Team, Powell is pursuing his dream of becoming a two-star athlete in the mold of Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson. His positive attitude, hard work, and of course his natural ability have him on the right track.
While growing up in Nevis, a small island in the Caribbean, Kieran began playing cricket at eight years old. Cricket is the game of choice on the island and baseball, though sometimes being broadcast on television, is not very popular. Despite not playing the sport at a young age, Powell says he would still watch games from time to time.
"I started having an interest in baseball when I was a bit younger but last year was when I started to pick up the interest and made the decision along with my manager to come and try to play some baseball."
Kieran has picked up a lot of the nuances of baseball from watching, as well as by practicing very hard over the past year. One person who has had a large influence on his game is Jack Voigt, who is currently the Mets' hitting coach at Triple-A Las Vegas. The two met at the facility where Powell practices his hitting and now work together six days a week on a specific schedule tweaking Powell's technique at the plate. Recently, they've seen improvement in a particular area.
"Over the last month, I've really started to get some power into my game after working with Jack Voigt continuously. We've been able to explore different things with my technique, so I've really started to get some extra pop into my game."
That extra power is likely an important key to Kieran's success but he also described himself as a guy that gets on base, certainly a valuable commodity in the sport. When asked about other skills in his arsenal, Powell mentioned his speed and agility, which he feels would suit him well playing in the outfield. He's not picky about which outfield position he plays, saying he wouldn't limit himself to any one spot.
Kieran thinks his work ethic is what will give him the best chance to succeed here. Not having focused on baseball regularly up until the past year, he knows that he'll need to make up a lot of time lost compared to other professional baseball players who have been playing their entire lives. For some, that would be a daunting task, but Kieran won't let that stop him from reaching his dream. Luckily, some of the skills needed for cricket are transferable to baseball.
"It doesn't really matter how much they relate. They do relate a lot but still, I have to put in the work and put in extra work because I started at a later age. I'm not taking anything for granted and even the best players in the world put in the extra work. I'm not going to sell myself short by just trying to be lazy and trying to get by with the bare minimum."
That work ethic will come in handy for Kieran in his transition, as will his experience as a professional cricketer. The baseball season is a marathon, especially in comparison to the other major American sports, but he feels his body is up to the challenge. In fact, Kieran pointed out that one cricket tour can last as long as three months, which is equivalent to half the baseball season. Not only will his cricket experience serve him well over the full season but throughout the slumps that occur naturally throughout the baseball season.
"Like in any professional sport, you're going to have slumps so you have to know how to deal with that sort of thing. That's my knowledge of being a professional and international cricketer for so many years. How to deal with slumps and how to get out of slumps, and how to deal with the bad times."
Switching sports has been an exciting experience for Kieran and in the process; he's had private workouts with the Mets and Brewers. He also had a scout day that was attended by representatives from 14 MLB teams. The experience has been really good overall, which Kieran expected given that he's dealing with high-caliber organizations, as well as the players and coaches. While he hasn't met his two favorite MLB players David Ortiz and Yasiel Puig, Kieran did get to meet with Mets' third baseman and captain David Wright, whom Kieran described as "really relaxed" and "a really cool fella." Wright shared a tip with Kieran, which he's heard from others as well.
"The best bit of information I received is to have fun and enjoy because there's no need to put pressure on yourself when there's already so much pressure."
As we enter the beginning of spring training, Kieran has yet to sign with a team, but he's continuing to work hard while heeding this advice. When asked where he thinks he'll land, Kieran puts his trust in the hands of his management team, who he knows will work out all the details. That includes whether or not he'll end up on a team's 25-man roster or assigned to the minor leagues and in answering that, Kieran says he's ready to work hard.
"There's nobody in the world that's going to say they're not Major League ready but it's up to the individual organization to do what they feel is in not only their best interest but in the player's best interest. Wherever I go, I'm going to put in the work regardless if they put me on the 25-man roster or in the minor leagues, I'm still going to have to put in the work. I'm 'baseball-ready', that's how I'd describe myself."
Excelling at two sports at the professional level is exceedingly rare. Just excelling at a single sport professionally is a pipe dream for most. Kieran Powell has mastered cricket. With plenty of hard work to go along with a great attitude, he just may succeed in his quest to become a Major League Baseball player and achieve his dream of being a two-sport athlete.